A SAVIOUR IS BORN
To the humble shepherds out on the Jordan hills the angel brought the startling announcement, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people: for there is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2: 10, 11). It is worthy of note that this announcement was not made to the Pharisee in the synagogue nor to the priest in the temple; not to the Roman governor in Caesarea nor to Augustus the Emperor in Rome, but to the lowly shepherds out in the field.
The Saviour was born of the virgin Mary. A miracle was involved in His birth. He had no human father. The Holy Spirit came upon Mary and the power of the Most High overshadowed her. Not only was the birth of our Saviour miraculous, it was also a virgin birth; not only a virgin birth, but it was also an advent. He came. He had been with the Father “before the world was.” Christ, “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Matthew tells how Joseph came to know about it. John, writing after Mathew and Luke had written, merely states that the “Word became flesh;” but does not tell how. This had already been related.
There is a remarkable passage in the Galatian Epistle (4:4) about the coming of Christ: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law.” This passage assumes the virgin birth. Note that God “sent forth his Son.” This implies his pre-existence. He was “born of a woman,” “made of a woman” (RV), this suggests the virgin birth. Ordinarily genealogy was reckoned from the father’s side of the house.
It was in the “fullness of the time” that Jesus came. This means that preparations had been made of his coming. The Jews had made their contribution as God’s covenant people in that they had received and preserved the knowledge of the true God. They had held aloft the torch of revealed truth for centuries. The Romans had unconsciously made certain valuable contributions against the time of the Savior’s coming. They had given the world the conception of universal and government. They had reduced robbery on the land and piracy on the seas. They had built roads to all the important centers of population in the empire—roads that would be remembered more because they were traveled by messengers of the cross than that they were built by the Caesars. The Greeks contributed the vehicle of transportation for the gospel message. They prepared the language in which the New Testament was written. Not the stately language of the poets and the orators, but the language of the common people, the koine. Besides, there was a general expectation, even among the Greeks and Romans, that a deliverer would be born among the Jews. This may have been due to the knowledge of Hebrew prophecy, made accessible to the Gentiles by the translation of the Old Testament into Greek about three hundred years before Christ. Also, the temple of Janus, open in time of war, was closed for the first time in about four hundred years. Truly it was in the “fullness of the time.”
No man knows the exact date of Jesus’ birth. It has been set in every month of the year. It is quite certain that he was not born on December 25. At the time of his birth the shepherds were out in the field keeping watch over their flocks by night. They did not do this after the cold, rainy season began in October, until after winter was over. The presence of the shepherds in the fields at night is conclusive evidence that it was before December. But if we knew the exact date of the Saviour’s birth, we would have no right to celebrate it without some command to do so. To celebrate it without any authority is to do so without faith; and, consequently, is wrong.
But there are millions of people who have never heard that Jesus was born in Bethlehem centuries ago. They have a right to know about his coming and mission. The angel, speaking to the shepherds, said that he brought “good tidings of great joy which should be to all the people.” But it cannot be “good tidings of great joy” to those who have not heard about it. It is our solemn duty to relay the joyous words of the angel to those who have not heard them, to tell those who sit in darkness that the Light has come.
This troubled world needs the wonderful message of the angelic anthem, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men in whom he is well pleased.” Only as men lay aside their ancient hates and unholy ambitions and accept the principles of the Prince of Peace can they be prosperous and happy. Christ can banish the fear and anxiety that haunt the world if men will let him. He alone can lead the race out of the miseries and tragedies of its own making onto the sunlit heights of peace and good will.
Finally, what does it mean to you that a Saviour is born?
B. C. Goodpasture (1895-1977)
Gospel Advocate (18 Dec. 1969): 806, 809
B. C. Goodpasture was a close friend and associate of Dr. Thomas B. Warren. Concerning Goodpasture, Warren wrote, “It is not easy to put into words the deep sentiments which we feel for this great and good man” (Spiritual Sword. 4. 2: 1). Perhaps the deep feeling of Thomas B. Warren for B. C. Goodpasture is best seen from the dedication inscribed in Dr. Warren’s signature work—Have Atheists Proved there Is No God?:
B. C. GOODPASTURE
valiant soldier of the cross