The Nativity /Luke 2:1-7

Posted on December 22, 2014


This message was delivered at Hillcrest Baptist Church on the morning of Dec. 21, 2014. This message details the setting of Christ’s birth, along with the location of His birth, and the significance of the location. Included are my sermon notes, and an audio recording.






Given the names Caesar Augustus  and Quirinius (kwi-rin i-us), this would have occurred around 4 B.C.

Pinpointing the date of this census any more precisely than that, is problematic.


his own city” would be the place of tribal origin.


Since both Joseph and Mary were of the line of David, they would go to Bethlehem, which is called the city of David.

This would have been a difficult journey of more than 70 miles, through mountainous terrain.

It would have been particularly tough for Mary, who was very pregnant.

It is; however, very likely that they both understood that a birth in Bethlehem would fulfill the prophecy in Micah 5:2

They may have fully expected to give birth while in Bethlehem.

In the ancient Near East, historical memories were long and the extended family’s connection to its hometown was always important.

When Joseph appeared in Bethlehem and said, “I am Joseph, son of

Jacob, etc. and detailed his lineage, the odds are that someone in the town would have made space for him and his family.

And Joseph was not just from a town family, his lineage was “royal” since he was from the line of David.

In fact, this Davidic connection was evidently so strong in Bethlehem that it was still called “the city of David

Mary’s circumstance is also important.

Childbirth was an important community event.

It seems unthinkable that the people of Bethlehem would have failed to help pregnant Mary, let alone the hometown boy Joseph of the royal family of David.

These circumstances suggest that it is highly unlikely Joseph and Mary could only find a barn in which to lodge, something the narrative never actually mentions.


Although Joseph and Mary were already married, she is called his betrothed wife because they had not yet consummated.


The swaddling clothes were long strips of cloth, used to keep a babies’ limbs straight so that they could grow properly.

Midwives would normally assist at a birth. Since this was Mary’s first baby, it is possible (though not specified in the text) that she had a midwife to assist her.

Jewish law permitted midwives to travel a long distance, even on the Sabbath to assist in delivery.


The Bible does not actually describe the location in which Jesus was born.

We always think of Jesus being born in a barn, but that’s unlikely.

Ancient tradition has Jesus being born in a cave, which is possible, but there is another option which we will look at.

So why do we always think of a barn in the story of Jesus’ birth?

Because of the prominence of the “manger” in the story.

Luke 2:7

Luke 2:12

Luke 2:16

In our modern context, a “manger” is an item that would be located in a barn. Yet, for thousands of years and even in much of the world still today, mangers are within the confines of domestic structures.

The manger was a feeding trough for animals. In many cases these were built into the floor

It may seem strange to us, but animals are described in the Bible as being kept in the house.

For example, in 1 Samuel 28:24 we read that a woman had a fattened calf “in the house.

Animal stalls, with their mangers, were normally located inside the residence of peasant families.

Archaeologists have uncovered stone-carved and plastered mangers on the ground floor of numerous domestic structures from biblical times.

Historians and anthropologists have noted the practice of keeping animals in the house down through history.

While flocks were kept in sheepfolds out in the fields (see Luke 2:8), at night very valuable or vulnerable animals (an ox, donkey, or pregnant sheep and goats) would be brought into a room on the ground floor of the house.

This kept a weak animal safe from harm and prevented theft.

Animals also provided additional body heat on cold Palestinian nights and convenient access to them for special purposes like milking.

In the morning the animals would be led out of the house.

It is very possible that when Mary gave birth to Jesus and laid Him in a manger, she did so in a house.

But what about the “inn” which was full— the very reason for using the manger?


The Greek word translated “inn” in that verse is used in only one other story in the New Testament. In Luke 22:11 (and it’s parallel in Mark 14:14).

It is not the usual Greek word for an inn.

The word describes the upper chamber of a house where the Last Supper was held.

As such, the word is more properly translated “guest room,” as it is rendered in Luke 22:11 and Mark 14:14.

When Luke says that there was no room “at the inn,” his point is that at the particular house Joseph and Mary approached, the guest room was already occupied.

Mary had no choice but to give birth in the room occupied by animals on the ground floor. But she still would have been in a house.

If Luke wanted us to understand the “inn” of the Christmas story as a hotel, this was not the correct term to use.

He uses the correct term when describing how the Good Samaritan took the half dead man to an “inn” with an “innkeeper”

These are different terms than those that appear in Luke’s narrative of the birth of Jesus.

The way this is written, Luke does not seem to be portraying a dismal situation with an unfeeling innkeeper as villain.

Jesus, most likely, was born in a house, not in the barn of a hotel.


The Christmas story is not about rejection and being alone. Rather, the focus appears to be just the opposite.

The Christmas story is about inclusion and a reminder that God doesn’t want us to be alone or try to walk spiritually by ourselves.

It is a reminder of the inclusiveness of Christ.

John 3:16

John 12:32

The death and resurrection of Christ is a sacrifice available to all who will accept it, without discrimination.

Galatians 3:28

This inclusiveness means that Christ has offered salvation to all.

The Christmas celebration should be of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Messiah (the savior) who willingly made Himself a sacrifice for our sins.

The celebration is not really one of a baby in a manger, but of the one who would offer Himself as a substitute for us, and even now makes intercession for us.

One has only to call on Christ in faith, in order to be adopted into His family.

Romans 10:9-13

Sadly, many will chose not to call on Christ, they will insist on doing it there own way, but their way won’t work.

John 14:6

Those who chose to take their own way rather than Jesus’ way, will end up on the broad way, which leads to eternal damnation in the lake of fire.

Let’s celebrate our Lord and Savior by telling someone about Him.

Posted in: Holidays, Sermons