2915. A Visit to Bethlehem

by on
A Visit To Bethlehem

No. 2915-50:613. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, December 24, 1854, By C. H. Spurgeon, At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, December 22, 1904.

Let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. {Lu 2:15}

1. Not to Bethlehem as it now is, but to Bethlehem as it once was, I would lead your meditation this evening.

2. Were you to visit the site of that ancient city of Judah as it is at present, you would find little enough to edify your hearts. About six miles south of Jerusalem, on the side of a hill, lies a small, irregular village, never at any time considerable either in its extent or because of the wealth of its inhabitants. The only building worthy of notice is a convent. Should your imagination paint, as you approach it, a courtyard, a stable, or a manger, you would be severely disappointed on your arrival. Tawdry decorations are all that would greet your eyes, — rather adapted to obliterate than to preserve the sacred interest with which a Christian would regard the place. You might walk on the marble floor of a chapel, and gaze on walls bedecked with pictures, and studded with the fantastic dolls and other nick-nacks which are usually found in Popish places of worship. Within a small grotto, you might observe the exact place that superstition has assigned to the nativity of our Lord; there, a star, composed of silver and precious stones, surrounded by golden lamps, might remind you, but merely as a parody, of the simple story of the Evangelists. Truly, Bethlehem was always little, if not the least, among the thousands of Judah, and famous only for its historic associations.

3. So, beloved, “let us now go even to Bethlehem” as it was; — let us, if possible, bring the wonderful story of that “Child born,” that “Son given,” down to our own times. Imagine the event to be occurring just now. I will try to paint the picture for you with vivid colours, so that you may apprehend afresh the great truth, and be impressed, as you ought to be, with the facts concerning the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

4. I propose now to make A VISIT TO BETHLEHEM, and I want five companions to make the visit instructive; so I would have, first, an aged Jew; next, an ancient Gentile; then, a convicted sinner then, a young believer; and, last of all, an advanced Christian. Their remarks can scarcely fail to please and profit us. Afterwards, I should like to take a whole family to the manger, let them all look at the Divine Infant, and hear what each one has to say about him.


6. Come on, my venerable, long-bearded brother; you are an Israelite, indeed, for your name is Simeon. Do you see the Babe “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger?” Yes, he does; and, overpowered by the sight, he clasps the Child in his arms, and exclaims, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word: for my eyes have seen your salvation.” “Here,” says this faithful son of Abraham, “is the fulfilment of a thousand prophecies and promises, the hope, the expectation, and the joy of my noble ancestry; here is the Antitype of all those mystical symbols and typical offerings prescribed in the laws of Moses. You, oh Son of the Highest, are Abraham’s promised Seed, the Shiloh whose coming Jacob foretold, great David’s greater Son, and Israel’s rightful King. Our prophets heralded your coming on each prophetic page; our bards vied with each other who should chant your praise in sweetest stanzas; and now, oh happy hour, these poor dim eyes greet your beautiful form! It is enough, — and more than enough; — oh God, I do not ask that I may live any longer on earth!” So speaks the aged Jew; and, as he speaks, I notice the rapturous smile that lights up every feature of his face, and listen to the deep, mellow tones of his tremulous voice. As he gazes on the tender Babe, I hear him quote Isaiah’s words, “He shall grow up before him as a tender plant”; and then, as he glances aside at the virgin mother, descendant of the royal house of David, he quickly looks back to the sinless Babe, and says, “A root out of a dry ground.” Farewell, venerable Jew, your talk sounds sweetly in my ears; may the day soon dawn when all your brethren shall return to their fatherland, and there confess our Jesus as their Messiah and their King!

7. II. My next companion shall be AN ANCIENT GENTILE.

8. He is an intelligent man. Do not ask me any questions concerning his creed. Deeply versed in the works of God in nature, he has glimmering, flickering light enough to detect the moral darkness by which he is surrounded, albeit the truth of the gospel has not yet found an entrance into his heart. Call him a sceptic, from the heathen point of view, if you please; but his is not a wilful perversion of the heart, it is rather that transitional state of the mind where false hopes are rejected, but the true hope has not yet been espoused. This Gentile brother is staying at Jerusalem, and we walk and talk together as we bend our steps toward Bethlehem. He has told me what pleasure he feels in reading the Jewish Scriptures, and how he has often longed for the dawn of that day which their seers predict. Now we enter the house, — a star shines brightly in the sky, and hovers over the stable; — we look at the Child, and my comrade exclaims in ecstasy, “a light to enlighten the Gentiles!” “Fair Child of promise,” he says, “your birth shall be a joy for all people! Prince of peace, yours shall be a peaceful reign! Kings shall bring presents to you; all nations shall serve you. The poor shall rejoice in your advent, for justice shall be done to them by you; and oppressors shall tremble at your coming, for judgment on them shall be pronounced by your lips.” Then sweetly he spoke of the hopes which had bloomed in that birth-chamber. He looked as if, in that very same hour, he saw the application of many an ancient promise, with the letter of which he was already acquainted, to the wonderful Child he saw there. It was refreshing to hear that Gentile quote, from the evangelical prophet, words like these, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”

9. As I bid adieu to this friend, you must allow me to offer you one or two of my own reflections. When God, in his anger, hid his face from the house of Jacob, he lifted up the light of his countenance on the Gentiles. When the fruitful land became a desert, the wilderness, at the same time, began to blossom as the garden of the Lord. Moses had anticipated both of these events, and the inspired prophets had foreseen one as much as the other. The heart of the Jewish people made gross, the heaviness of their eyes, and the dulness of their ears, are not more striking, as an exact fulfilment of divine judgment, than the extreme susceptibility of the Gentile mind to receive the evidence of our Lord’s Messiahship, and to embrace his gospel. So Jehovah had said, fifteen hundred years earlier, “I will move them to jealousy with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.” {De 32:21} Do not marvel, then, but admire the crisis in history when Paul and Barnabas were commissioned to say to the Jews who rejected the gospel, “Lo, we turn to the Gentiles, ” I have consulted the map, and looked, with intense emotion, at the route which Paul and Barnabas took on their first missionary journey. Antioch, the city from which they went out, is situated directly north of Jerusalem, and there, in no very unequal proportions, they could find both Jews and Gentiles. “To the Jew first,” was according to the divine injunction; and, when their own nation rejected the grace of God, lo, they turned to the Gentiles, with a result immediately following that greatly cheered them, for the Gentiles heard with gladness, and glorified the Word of the Lord. As you follow the various journeys of the apostle Paul, you will see that his course was always northward, or, rather, in a north-westerly direction, and so the news of the gospel travelled on until the Church of the redeemed found a central point in our highly favoured isle.

10. I think I hear some of you say, “We are not antiquarian {not old} enough to appreciate the company of your two venerable companions.” Well then, beloved, the three who follow shall be drawn from among you, and it may be that you will discover your own thoughts expressed in the sketches I am about to add.

11. III. Next in order is THE AWAKENED SINNER.

12. Come here, my sister, I am glad to see you, and I shall have much pleasure in your company to Bethlehem. Why do you hold back? Do not be afraid; there is nothing to terrify you here. Come in; come in. With trembling apprehension, my sister advances to the rough crib, where the young Child lies. She looks as if she feared to rejoice, and is beyond measure astonished at herself that she does not faint. She says to me, “And is this, sir, really and truly the great mystery of godliness? Do I, in that manger, behold ‘God revealed in the flesh’? I expected to see something very different.” Looking into her face, I clearly perceived that she could scarcely believe for joy. A humble, but not uninteresting visitor to the birthplace of my Lord is this trembling penitent. I wish I could have many like her out of this congregation tonight. You would see how mystery is dissolved in mercy. No flaming sword, turning every way, obstructs your entrance; no ticket of admission is demanded by a surly menial at the door; no favour is shown to rank or title; you may go freely in to see the noblest child born of woman in the humblest cot where an infant ever nestled. Nor does a visible tiara of light encircle his brow. Too humble, I assure you, for the imagination of the poet to describe, or the pencil of the artist to sketch, — like a poor man’s child, he is wrapped in swaddling clothes, and cradled in a manger. It needs faith to believe what the eye of sense never could discern as you look at “the Prince of life” in such humble guise.

13. IV. My fourth companion is A YOUNG BELIEVER.

14. Well, my brother, you and I have often had sweet communion together concerning the things of the kingdom; “let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” I notice the sacred cheerfulness of my young friend’s countenance as he approaches the incarnate mystery. I have often heard him discussing curious doctrinal subtleties; but now, with calmness of spirit, he looks at the face of the Divine Child, and says, “Truth is sprung out of the earth, for a woman has given birth to her Son; and righteousness has looked down from heaven, for God has truly revealed himself in that Babe.” He looks so wistfully at the young Child, as if a fresh spring of holy gratitude had been opened in his heart. “No vision, no imagination, no myth here,” he says, “but a real partaker of our flesh and blood; he has not taken on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham. Heaven and earth have united to make us blessed. Might and weakness have joined hands here!” He pauses to worship, then speaks again, “In what a small, weak, slender tabernacle do you, oh glorious God, now condescend to dwell! Surely, mercy and truth have met together here, righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Oh Jesus, Saviour, you are mercy itself, — the tender mercy of our God is embodied in you. You are the Truth, — the very Truth which the prophets longed to see, and into which the angels desire to look, — the Truth my soul so long sought for, but never found until I beheld your face. Once I thought that the Truth was hidden in some profound treatise, or in some learned book; but now I know that it is revealed in you, oh Jesus, my Kinsman, yet your Father’s equal! And, sweet Babe, you are also righteousness, — the only righteousness that God can accept. What condescension, yet what patience! Ah, dear Child, how still do you lie! I wonder that, conscious of your divine power, you can endure the weary, lingering hours of infancy with humility so strange, so rare! I think, if you had stood by me, and watched over me, in my infant weakness, that would have been a service that I could well admire; but it is past imagination’s utmost stretch to realize what it must be for you to be so feeble, so helpless, so needing to be fed and waited on by an earthly mother. For the Wonderful, the mighty God, to stoop like this, is profound humility!”

15. So spoke the young believer, and I liked his speech much, for I saw in him how faith could work by love, and how the end of controversy and argument is reached at Bethlehem, for “without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was revealed in the flesh.”

16. V. Now I will go to Bethlehem with AN ADVANCED CHRISTIAN, such a one as Paul the aged, or John the divine; no, rather with such a one as I might find among the circle of my own church members.

17. Calm, peaceful, and gracious, he seems as if his training in the school of Christ, and the sacred anointing of the Holy Spirit, have made him like a child himself, as his character is maturing, and his fitness for the kingdom of heaven is becoming more apparent. Tears glistened in the old man’s eyes as he looked with expressive fondness on that “Infant of eternal days.” He did not say much, and what he said was not exactly like what any of my other companions had spoken. It was his manner to quote short sentences, with great exactness, from the Word of God. He uttered them slowly, pondered them deeply, and there was much spiritual unction in the accent with which he spoke. I will just mention a few of the profitable sentences that he uttered. First he said, “No man has ascended up to heaven, but he who came down from heaven, even the Son of Man who is in heaven” and he really appeared to see more in that passage than I had ever seen there; — Jesus, the Son of man, in heaven even while he was on earth! Then he looked at the Child, and said, “The same was in the beginning with God.” After that, he uttered these three short sentences in succession, “In the beginning was the Word,” — “all things were made by him,” “and the Word was made flesh.” He looked as if he realized what a great mystery it was that our Lord Jesus first made all things, and afterwards was himself “made flesh.” Then he reverently bent his knee, clasped his hands, and exclaimed, “My Father’s gift — ‘Behold, what manner of love!’ ”

18. As we retire from that manger and stable, that aged Christian puts his hand on my shoulder, and says, “Young man, I have often been to Bethlehem; it was a much-loved haunt of mine before you were born, and there is one sweet lesson I have learned there which I should like to pass on to you. The Infinite became finite; the Almighty consented to become weak; he, who upheld all things by the word of his power, willingly became helpless; he, who spoke all worlds into existence, resigned for a while even the power of speech. In all these things, he fulfilled the will of his Father; so do not be afraid, nor surprised with any amazement, if you should be dealt with in the same way, for his Father is also your Father. You, who have revelled in the ancient settlements of the everlasting covenant, may yet have to hang feebly on the mercies of the hour. You have leaned on your Saviour’s breast at his table; but you may presently be so weak that you must rely on the nursing of a woman. Your tongue has been touched as with a coal from the heavenly altar, but your lips may yet be sealed as are those of an infant. If you should sink even deeper in humiliation, you will never reach the depth to which Jesus descended in this one act of his condescension.” “True, true,” I replied, “my young brother hinted at the amazing condescension of the Son of God; you have explained it to me more fully.”

19. So then, beloved, I have endeavoured to carry out my purpose of going to Bethlehem with five individual companions, — all representative people. Alas, that some of you are not represented by any one of these characters! “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?” Do you not care for this blessed nativity which marked of old “the fulness of time?” If you die without a knowledge of this mystery, your lives will indeed be a fearful blank, and your eternal portion will be truly terrible.

20. VI. Give me your earnest attention, for a little longer, while I try to change the line of meditation. It may please God that, while I attempt to CONDUCT A WHOLE FAMILY TO BETHLEHEM, some hearts, which have so far resisted all my appeals, may yet yield to the Lord Jesus Christ.

21. A familiar picture will serve my purpose. Imagine this to be the evening of Christmas day, and that a Christian father has all his household gathered with him around the fire. Desirous of blending instruction with pleasure, he proposes that “the birth of Christ” shall be the subject of their conversation, that every one of the children shall say something about it, and he will preach to them a short sermon on each of their remarks. He calls Mary, their servant, into the room, and when all are comfortably seated they begin.

22. (1) After a simple sketch of the facts, the father turns to his youngest boy, and asks, “What do you have to say, Willy?” The little fellow, who is just old enough to go to the Sunday School, repeats two lines that he has learned to sing there, — many of you, no doubt, know them, —

    Jesus Christ, my Lord and Saviour,
       Once became a child like me.

23. “Good, my dear,” says the father, — “once became a child like me.” Yes; Jesus was born into the world as other little babies are born. He was as little, as delicate, as weak, as other infants, and needed to be nursed as they do.

    Almighty God became a man,
       A babe like others seen:
    As small in size, and weak of frame,
       As babes have always been.
    From thence he grew an infant mild,
       By fair and due degrees;
    And then became a bigger child,
       And sat on Mary’s knee.
    At first held up for want of strength,
       In time alone he ran;
    Then grew a boy; a lad; at length,
       A youth; at last, a man.

24. “It is wrong to draw pictures of the little Jesus, and then say that they are like him. Wicked idolaters do that. But we ought to think of Jesus Christ as made in all things like his brethren. There was never a thing in which he was not like us, except that he had no sin. He used to eat, and drink, and sleep, and wake up, and laugh, and cry, and fondle his mother, just as other children do. So it is quite right for you, Willy, to say, ‘once became a child like me.’ ”

25. (2) “Now, John,” said the father, addressing a lad rather older, “what do you have to say?” “Well, father,” said John, “if Jesus Christ was like us in some things, I do not think he could have had so many comforts as we have; — not such a nice nursery, nor such a snug bed. Was he not disturbed by the horses, and cows, and camels? It seems shocking to me that he had to live in a stable.”

26. “That is a very proper remark, John,” said his father. “All of us ought to think how our blessed Lord cast in his lot with the poor. When those wise men came from the East, I daresay they were surprised, at first, to find that Jesus was a poor man’s child; yet they fell down and worshipped him, and they opened their treasury, and presented to him very costly gifts, — gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. Ah! when the Son of God made that great stoop from heaven to earth, he passed the glittering palaces of kings, and the marble halls of the rich and the noble, and took up his abode in the lodgings of poverty. Still, he was ‘born King of the Jews’ Now, John, did you ever read of a child being born a king before? Of course, you never did; children have been born princes, and heirs to a throne, but no one else other than Jesus was ever born a king. The poverty of our Saviour’s circumstances is like a foil which sets off the glorious dignity of his person. You have read of good kings, such as David, and Hezekiah, and Josiah; yet, if they had not been kings, we should never have heard of them; but it was quite otherwise with Jesus Christ. He was possessed of more true greatness in a stable than any other king ever possessed in a palace; but do not imagine it was only in his childhood that Jesus was the Kinsman of the poor. When he grew up to be a man, he said, ‘The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.’ Do you know, my children, that our comforts were purchased at the expense of his sufferings? ‘He became poor so that we, through his poverty, might be rich.’ We ought, therefore, to thank and praise the blessed Jesus every time we remember how much worse off he was in this world than we are.”

27. (3) “It is your turn now,” said the father, as he looked at his little daughter, — an intelligent girl, who was just beginning to be of some assistance to her mother in the discharge of her daily domestic duties. Poor girl, she modestly hung down her head, for she remembered, just then, how frequently little acts of carelessness had exposed her to tender but faithful rebukes from her parents. At last, she said, “Oh, father, how good Jesus Christ was! He never did anything wrong.” “Very true, my love,” the father replied. “It is a sweet subject for meditation that you suggest. His nature was sinless, his thoughts were pure, his heart was transparent, and all his actions just and right. You have read of the lambs, which Moses in the law commanded the Jews to offer in sacrifice to God. They were all to be without spot or blemish; and if there had been one taint of impurity in the Child who was born of Mary, he could never have been our Saviour. Sometimes, we think naughty thoughts, and no one knows it but God; and, sometimes, we do what is evil, but we are not found out. It was not so with the meek and lowly Saviour; he never had even one fault. His delight was in the law of the Lord, and he meditated in that law day and night. Even when we do not commit any positive sin, we often forget to do our duty; but Jesus never did. He was like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that produces its fruit in its season. He never disappointed any hopes that were placed in him.”

28. “There now,” said the father, “we have had three beautiful thoughts already, — Jesus Christ took our nature, he condescended to be very poor, and he was without sin.”

29. (4) There was, in the room, a big boy, who had just come home from boarding-school, to spend his Christmas holidays, so his father turned to this son, and said, “Fred, we must hear your remark next.” Very short, very significant was Master Fred’s response: “That child had a wonderful mind.”

30. “Indeed he had,” said the father, “and it would be good for all of us if that mind were in us which was also in Christ Jesus. His mind was infinite, for he took part in the eternal counsels of God; but I would rather suggest to you another line of thought: ‘In him was light.’ The mind of Jesus was like light for its clarity and purity. We often see things through a misleading medium; we form wrong impressions, which we find it trouble enough afterwards to correct; but Jesus was of quick understanding to discern between good and evil. His mind was never warped by prejudice; he saw things just as they are. He never had to borrow other people’s eyes, and the ideas hatched in other people’s brains never guided his judgment. He had light in himself, and that light was the life of men, so capable was he always of instructing the ignorant, and guiding their feet in the paths of peace. His heart was likewise pure, and that has more to do with the development of the mind, and the improvement of the understanding, than we are apt to suppose. No corrupt imagination ever tarnished the brightness of his vision. He was always in harmony with God, and always felt goodwill towards man. You might well say, Fred, that he had a wonderful mind.”

31. (5) The children having each made some observation, the father next addressed Mary, the servant. “Do not be timid,” he said, “but speak out, and let us know your thought.” “I was just thinking, sir,” said Mary, “how humble it was of him to take on himself the form of a servant.” “Right, Mary, quite right; and it is always profitable to consider how Jesus came down to our low estate. We may well be reconciled to any ‘lot’ which Jesus voluntarily chose for himself. But there is more in your remark, as applicable to Bethlehem, and the nativity, than you perhaps imagined; for, according to Dr. Kitto’s account of the inn, or Caravanserai, it was the servant’s place that the holy family occupied. Imagine now a square pile of strong and lofty walls, built of brick on a basement of stone, with one great archway entrance. These walls enclose a large open area with a well in the middle. In the centre is an inner quadrangle, consisting of a raised platform on all four sides covered with a kind of piazza, and then, in the wall behind, there are small doors leading to the little rooms which form the lodgings. Such we may suppose to have been the ‘inn’ in which there was ‘no room’ for Mary and Joseph. Now for a description of the stable. It is formed of a covered avenue between the back wall of the lodging apartments and the outer wall of the whole building; so it is on a level with the court, and three or four feet below the raised platform. The side walls of those rooms in the inner quadrangle, projecting behind into the courtyard, form recesses, or stalls, which servants and muleteers used for shelter in bad weather. Joseph and Mary seem to have found a retreat in one of these. There, it is supposed, the infant Jesus was born; and if it is so, how literally true is it that he took on him the form of a servant, and occupied the servant’s apartment!”

32. (6) Once more the father seeks a fresh text, and, looking at his wife, he says, “My dear, you have taken a quiet interest in our conversations this evening; let us now hear your reflection. I am sure you can say something we shall all be pleased to hear.” The mother looked absorbed in thought, she appeared to have a vivid picture of the whole scene before her, and her eye twinkled as if she could actually see the little darling lying in the manger. She spoke most naturally and most maternally, too. “What a lovely Child! And yet,” she added, with a deep sigh, “he, who is so much fairer than the children of men in his cradle, after a few short years, was so overwhelmed with anxiety, suffering, and anguish, that his visage was more marred than that of any other man, and his form more than that of the sons of men.”

33. A pensive sadness stole over every face as that godly mother offered her reflections. Woman’s tenderness seemed to be sanctified by grace divine in her heart, and to give out its richest fragrance. The father presently broke the stillness as he said, “Ah, my love, you have spoken best of all! His heart was broken with reproach; that humble birth was only the prelude to a life even more humble, and a death even more abased. Your feeling, my love, is a most precious evidence of your close relationship to him.

    A faithful friend of grief partakes;
       But union can be none
    Betwixt a heart that melts like wax
       And hearts as hard as stone;
    Betwixt a head diffusing blood
       And members sound and whole,
    Betwixt an agonizing God
       And an unfeeling soul.”

34. (7) “To close up now,” said the father, glancing around with animated expression on his household, “I suppose you will expect a few words from me. Much as I like your mother’s observations, I think it would be hardly right, on such an auspicious day, to finish with anything melancholy and sad. You know that fathers are generally most thoughtful about the prospects of their children. I can look at you boys, and think, ‘Never mind if you have a few hardships as long as you can struggle successfully against them.’ Well now, I have been picturing to myself the manger, the baby who lay in it, and Mary his mother watching lovingly over him; and I will tell you what I thought. Those little hands will one day grasp the sceptre of universal empire; those little arms will one day grapple with the monster ‘Death’, and destroy it; those little feet shall tread on the serpent’s neck, and crush that old deceiver’s head; yes, and that little tongue, which has not yet learned to articulate a word, shall, before long, pour from his sweet lips such streams of eloquence as shall enrich the minds of the whole human race, and infuse his teaching into the literature of the world; and again a little while, and that tongue shall pronounce the judgments of heaven on the destinies of all mankind. We have all thought it wonderful that the God of glory should stoop so low; but we shall one day think it even more wonderful that the Man of sorrows should be exalted so high. Earth could find no place too base for him; heaven will scarcely find a place lofty enough for him. If there is just this one thing to be said about Jesus Christ, he is ‘the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.’ We may change with circumstances, Jesus never did, and never will. When we look at him in the manger, we may say, ‘He is the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the mighty God.’ And when we see him exalted to his Father’s right hand, we may exclaim, ‘Behold the Man!’

    His human heart he still retains,
    Though ’throned in highest bliss,
    And feels each tempted member’s pains,
    For our affliction’s his.”

35. So closed the series of observations by the various members of a Christian family around the Christmas fire. The father said it was time to retire, and bade them all “Good night”; and as the father said, so I say, “Good night, and may God bless you all!” Amen.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Lu 2:1-19}

We will now read the story of our Saviour’s birth as it is recorded in the Gospel according to Luke.

1-6. And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

Little did any idea enter into Caesar’s head that he was accomplishing the purpose of God by bringing Mary to Bethlehem, at that particular time, so that her child might be born there. But God can accomplish the purpose of his providence, and of his grace, in any way that he pleases; and although Caesar is not aware of all that is involved in his action, his decree, which he intends simply to be a means of registering his subjects, and of filling his treasury, is to be overruled by God for the fulfilment of the prophecy, uttered centuries before the event happened, that Christ must be born at Bethlehem.

It may seem, to some of you, a strange thing that there should be an imperial edict, issued from Rome, which should have an important influence on the place of birth of the Child; yet I do not doubt that, in God’s esteem, the entire great Roman Empire was of very little account in comparison with his Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ; and today, the thrones and dominions of the mightiest monarchs are only like the small cogs of the wheels of divine providence where the welfare of even the least of the Lord’s people is concerned. He does not consider events according to their apparent importance; the standard of the sanctuary is a very different measure from what worldlings use. When any purpose of God is to be accomplished, all other things will be subordinated to it.

6, 7. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now heavenly glory has wedded earthly poverty; and, henceforth, let no man dare to despise the poor and needy, since the Son of the Highest is born in a stable, and cradled in a manger. How low the King of glory stoops, and how gloriously he lifts up the lowly to share his glory!

8, 9. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came to them, and the glory of the Lord shone all around them: and they were very afraid.

For such is the condition, even of gracious souls, that the near approach of the divine glory creates in them trembling and alarm. Oh, how wondrously changed shall we be when we are able to bear even the glories of heaven! Have you ever thought of this, dear friends? The beloved apostle, John, saw Christ in his glory, and he wrote, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet, as dead”; and these shepherds, even at the sight of “the angel of the Lord,” “were very afraid.” You and I, beloved, must undergo a marvellous change before we shall be able to be at home with God in his glory; but that change shall, through his abundant grace, take place before long.

10-12. And the angel said to them, “Do not fear: for, behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be for all people. For to you is born today in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you; ‘You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ ”

“This shall be a sign to you,” said the angel to the shepherds; and this is the ensign of the Christ of God even to this day. There are some, who are constantly bringing discredit on religion by their pompous ritual and gorgeous ceremonies, and it is buried beneath the weight of their sensuous worship, but the living Christ is still found in simple, lowly guise, “wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host —

They had heard the heavenly herald’s proclamation, and hurried down to join him in proclaiming the good news. They could not bear that only one angel should announce the birth of the Christ; so, “suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host” —

13-19. Praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.” And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told to them concerning this child. And all those who heard it wondered at those things which were told to them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

Mary laid these things up in store, and pondered them, giving them their due weight and value. Oh, that we did the same with every truth that we learn!

End Of Volume L

{a} The accompanying sermon is substantially the same as I preached on the Sunday evening before Christmas day. Some of my members expressed their regret that the reporter was not present. I am not myself aware that there is any novelty, except in the arrangement. As for the truths themselves, they are the simple old facts in which the saints of all generations rejoice. Of course, it is not in my power to reproduce the exact words I then used, but, with just the differences between the effusion of one’s pen and the utterance of one’s tongue, I now publish it, and pray God to acknowledge it with his gracious blessing. — C. H. S.

(Notwithstanding the above note, which is in Mr. Spurgeon’s handwriting on the MS. of the sermon, the publishers cannot find any trace of its publication. They are very glad to be able to issue it just fifty years after it was preached.)

Messers. Passmore and Alabaster have now published the

Jubilee Volume of the “Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit.”

It is issued at the usual price, 7s., but, For a limited period only, they will supply it at 3s. 6p., post free, to all readers of the Sermons.

Order should be sent AT ONCE with Postal Order for the amount, to Passmore and Alabaster, 4, Paternoster Buildings, London.

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

Terms of Use

Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

Spurgeon Sermon Updates

Email me when new sermons are posted:

Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Learn more

  • Customer Service 800.778.3390