Luke 2:1—21 tells the familiar story of Jesus' birth. It starts with this in verse one: "In those days. . ."
The ESV Study Bible says that "'In those days' is an imprecise date (contrast Luke 3:1–2), suggesting that Luke did not know the exact year (cf. 3:23)." The study guide also says that as Luke likely wrote the book after the events of Acts 28 (approx. A.D. 62), he probably didn't know the exact date.
But the facts remain: The biblical writers and secular historians have recorded the birth of Jesus as an actual event in time and in a place called Bethlehem. It occurred in a particular political (Roman occupation and taxation) and cultural (Jewish agrarian) context.
And just as his birth is a historical fact, so too are his death and resurrection. Furthermore, although Luke wasn't present at the birth of Jesus, others were and observed all that happened firsthand.
As his redeemed, God has called us to be good stewards of our time, talents, and treasure. We are also called to be stewards of our testimony, which is this grand story of redemption—not only as historical events but also personally as we experience, witness to, and demonstrate its transforming power in our lives.
In the busyness of the Christmas season, we must not take our gaze away from the miracle in the manager and the part it played in God's eternal plan.
Christ, the sum and substance of history
Christ was born in history past on a specific date pre-ordained by the Father. The Son and the Holy Spirit knew the day, but the angels didn't. And even if they did, they wouldn't have understood the purpose behind it (1 Pet. 1:12).
And it's good and right and joyously uplifting to reflect on Christ's birth and to worship God for it. But it's only a part of God's revelation of his Son. Bethlehem must lead us to Jerusalem; the manger leads to the cross.
Christmas should cause us to think beyond the incarnation and to meditate on God's plan for all of history.
God's ultimate goal is for all things to be united in Christ when he returns to reign supremely over God's eternal kingdom forever and forever.
Christ is not just an important figure in all of human history—he is much greater than that—he is the sum and substance of history itself. Consider these verses:
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Rom. 11:36, ESV)
For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.… (Col. 1:16–17, ESV)
What's in view here is a "transcendent" history—a history of histories, the history of God himself—written by God and created by God as he works out "all things according to the counsel of his own will" (Eph. 1:11) in order "to bring all things in heaven and on earth together in Christ" (Eph. 1:10).
The Bible teaches us that history is neither a random set of chance occurrences nor is it just the result of the choices of men. No, history was planned out precisely and in every minute detail before time began.
Even the unprecedented events of the last two years were part of God's eternal plan.
From before the beginning of the world, God knew his every work and laid out his detailed plan. And then he sovereignly and worked it all out to glorious perfection (Job 42:2).
As glorious as it was, the incarnation was a part of God's eternal and immutable plan, but not the essence and its ultimate goal. It was part of the whole redemptive plan of God: Jesus' miraculous birth, sinless life, sacrificial death, glorious resurrection, and second coming when he will return in power and dominion over all things (Eph. 1:3–14).
These are the events that all of history will look back to as the most magnificent display of God's power, love, mercy, and grace.
Steward his-story well
Our great testimony is that over 2,000 years ago, Christ came to earth to live a perfect life and to offer himself up as a substitutionary sacrifice for those whom the Father would give to him as brothers and sisters in exchange for his marvelous work of love and mercy.
That includes you and me, not just us, but all those who hear his call and respond with saving faith.
Amid so much trouble and strife in this world, consider the ultimate purpose of this history-climaxing event, with its monumental and victorious results!
Just as indeed as Jesus was born, lived and died, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven, so too the day will come when he will return, and every tribe and every tongue will worship him; every knee will bow to him, and he will rule over all his enemies in the ages to come (Phil. 2:9–11).
Therefore, no person, event, or activity in all of history, however insignificant, does not find its true meaning and purpose only in relation to Christ's birth, but most of all, his great atoning and reconciling work on the cross.
Think of this as you contemplate the baby in the manager, and let us all steward his story well as we rejoice during this Christmas season.
Allow the reality of the incarnation and all its implications for your life up to now to guide and inspire you as you live your life (retired or not) in Christ, for Christ, and through Christ, for as many years as he gives you.
And let these truths be the source of great hope and joy that comes only from knowing the Incarnate Christ as our Lord and Savior.