The child was born to greatness. He was a child who would set up a world wide kingdom of peace for all people, something unlike the world had ever seen. He was a child who was declared by his father to be heir of all his glory; a child who would change the world; a child who would grow to be a man who described his kingdom with the word "Gospel" ("Good News"). This child, of course, was Octavian, adopted son of Julius Caesar - otherwise known as Caesar Augustus. That's whom you would have seen in power on that first Christmas evening. And it is in that setting that Luke tells the story about a child who changed everything.
In his first chapter, Luke had already introduced his theme of this great reversal. The reader would have already met Zechariah who spoke to his speechless baby and with pinpoint accuracy called that infant named John the prophet of the Most High. We've already met the young, unwed, pregnant girl - poor by everyone's standards, humble by her own - you know, the one the angel called the "God-bearer." Her own generation saw her as a disgrace, but Luke tells us all generations will call her blessed. In fact, that famous song of Mary, that Magnificat, is recorded in chapter one, where she makes so clear that her God is one that reverses everything - the proud are brought down and the humble exalted.
And so Luke's simple, Spirit-inspired History begins. In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree... And the world listened. You would too if your emperor were so powerful most people thought he was a god. And yet, even as Caesar's word was moving entire peoples around the globe, Luke will show that the real mover and shaker had yet to enter the scene - a virgin was with child. This child will change everything. Read Luke 2 to see how it happened, so simply, so quietly.
One would think that when God stepped in, everything would have changed, right then. But when this child was born, on the surface, nothing seems to have changed. Herod, that Jew serving as Rome's puppet, was still tyrant in Jerusalem. The hated Romans were still sticking it to all the peoples of the earth. Mary and Joseph, those God-fearing Jews, were still living in indignity and poverty. The promised child had come. Why didn't everything change? The only good news still seemed to be of the Augustan variety - his new world order.
But meanwhile, God entered. When the creator of the universe became a creature, he slipped into the warm lake of humanity without even rippling the surface and scarcely anyone noticed. Think of the humiliation. The Lord who holds the planets in their courses and stars in their places left behind the eternal glory of heaven and became something so weak he could not walk or talk or control his bladder.
Would you do that? Do you love your spouse enough to set aside all of your pride and take all of their lack of appreciation and cruelty and humble yourself? Too often, I don't. Do you care enough about those people who don't care about you that you'll give to the point of suffering, to the point of going without - so that maybe, just maybe, we'll be able to reach one more of them with the gospel? Too often, we want the things we want too much for that. Would you give up your job, or your health, or your free time to love - unconditionally? Too often, the answer is no. We want to create our new world order.
So God bowed to us to save us from our world order and give us his. This child has changed everything. I know, on the outside it might not look like it.
There is still war in the world and pain in your life. There is still hostility in your family, heartache in your holiday, even fear in your heart, and sin on your conscience. It might look like nothing has changed, but this child changes everything, because He is God taking our place, to win the salvation we never could. Our eternity is secure.
Merry Christmas, because this child is God, who came to save us.