|God's Son Born,
Mankind Too Preoccupied
By Pastor Tom Berry
"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 registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her first-born Son; and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:4-7
To be preoccupied is to be absorbed in thoughts that are so important to us that thoughts of other things are virtually excluded.
…a businessman can become preoccupied with products, marketing, purchasing and selling to insure that his income exceeds his expenses.
…a bride and groom can become engrossed in plans for their wedding and married life to follow.
…a student in training for a demanding vocation can get engrossed in their studies and preparations for exams.
…children anticipating Christmas can get engrossed in wondering what presents they will receive.
…all of us have experienced or observed others preoccupied with hobbies, entertainment, recreation, and projects. We can get so preoccupied with good things that we ignore important things we should be thinking about. This was true at the birth of Jesus.
I. GOVERNMENT LEADERS WERE PREOCCUPIED
Augustus Caesar was emperor of Rome at the birth of Jesus. The Roman Empire ruled over Israel and all other nations around the Mediterranean Sea. Augustus was one of Rome's best emperors. To a very high degree there was peace, prosperity and liberty. Augustus and his leaders were preoccupied with keeping the empire powerful, prosperous, and peaceful. One thing occupying their mind was raising enough money to pay for everything. Augustus ordered everyone to go to the city of their ancestors and enroll so that the government could get taxes from them. His imperial order was the human means that made Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem where Jesus was born in fulfillment of prophecy. This was the greatest event in the history of mankind up to this point, but Augustus never knew it because he was too preoccupied.
Herod the Great was the ruler of Judea when Jesus was born. Appointed "king" by Augustus, he was preoccupied with staying in power. He did this in two ways. First, he did things he knew the people wanted like enlarging and beautifying the Temple in Jerusalem. Second, he eliminated everybody who was a threat to him. This included his favorite wife, her two sons and many other people. Augustus said of Herod that it was safer to be his pig than a member of his family. When Herod heard "the king of the Jews" had been born at Bethlehem he sent soldiers to kill all the babies in the area of Bethlehem.
Government leaders are still preoccupied today. There are multitudes of things that are important to occupy their thoughts. Most of these things provide benefit to many, if not all citizens. We should be thankful for the benefits we enjoy by the rule of law and representative government. At the same time Jesus finds little place in the deliberations of government leaders. To raise the question, "Would this action please or displease Jesus," is almost certain to get the response of a deaf ear.
Someday, in the not too far distant future, Jesus will be the government.
II. RELIGIOUS LEADERS WERE PREOCCUPIED
At the time Jesus was born the leadership of Israel was made up primarily of the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees.
THE SCRIBES were the authorities of scripture. They copied, memorized, and studied the scriptures. Over time they gave their interpretations of law, history, poets, and prophets. Their opinions were highly respected by most of the people.
THE PHARISEES came into existence during the time Judah was taken into captivity in Babylon Pharisee means "the separated ones" or "separatists". They opposed the loose morals and practices of Jews who embraced the lifestyles of their Babylonian captors. They put into practice the interpretations of the scribes. They believed they held the only true interpretation of scripture. Their religion became a matter of observing many externals. Jesus condemned them because they omitted "justice, mercy, and faith(fullness)." Matthew 23:23.
THE SADDUCEES were the party of the Jewish aristocratic priesthood. They had little interest in the common people. Their numbers were small but they exercised great influence because of their heritage, position, and wealth. They didn't believe in angels, spirits, immortality, resurrection, or future punishment for the wicked. Nor did they believe God involved Himself in human affairs. There is no record of a Sadducee ever being admitted to a Christian church.
When the wise men came to Jerusalem and inquired of the religious leaders, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?" …the chief priests and scribes could readily answer, "In Bethlehem of Judea…" and they quoted Micah 5:2 as the prophecy revealing this fact. These wise men had come over 500 miles to worship Jesus, but these religious leaders would not even go five miles to Bethlehem to check it out. They were preoccupied with a lot of religious things, but had no place in their thoughts for having a personal relationship with Jesus the Christ.
Many religious leaders are preoccupied today with things that have little to do with doing the will of Jesus Christ. They decide what is important on the basis of religious tradition, personal ambition or what society decides is most important. Loving God with all our heart; loving our neighbors as we do ourselves and seeking to make the gospel of Christ known to all mankind gets pushed into the background. We should continually remind ourselves that the top priorities are evangelism, discipleship, ministry, fellowship, and worship. We are very aware that we too can get so preoccupied with other things that the essential priorities get crowded out.
III. THE BUSINESS WORLD WAS PREOCCUPIED
"…and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:7
Bethlehem was "the city of David." All living descendants of David were required by Roman law to return there to be enrolled for taxation. The markets were filled with townspeople and returned travelers milling around to purchase food and other items. Hucksters were hawking their wares on the street. Local families were deluged with arriving relatives seeking shelter. A room at the inn had risen to an outrageous price. A room may have been available to someone able to pay the price, but for the carpenter and his wife "great with child" there was no room.
Unknown to those enterprising businessmen the long prophesied "Son of David" who was Israel's long promised Messiah would be born in their town that very night. But they were so preoccupied with business there was no room in their thoughts for Jesus Who was come to "save His people from their sins."
The business world certainly celebrates Christmas. Many stores count on the Christmas season for half of their profit for the year. Christmas music begins being played before Thanksgiving to get people in the mood to buy Christmas gifts. No one can escape the advertising blitz in their mailboxes, newspapers, radio, and television. Virtually everybody gets wrapped up in buying gifts. And there are parties galore.
But is all this a sincere celebration of Jesus Christ, God's Son? It seems the real stars of Christmas are Santa Claus, his reindeer, the Christmas trees and the lights.
A psychology professor asked his students to jot down all the words that came to their mind about Christmas in one minute's time. The words they came up with were "cards, holly, Santa Claus, Christmas tree, gifts, snow, parties and mistletoe." If we read the Bible account of His birth in Luke 2 we discover these words: "shepherd, angels, glory, good tidings, great joy, Savior, Babe, manger, singing, peace, wonder, and praise. It appears our minds are preoccupied with other things to the point that there is little or no room for a true celebration of Christ's birth.
IV. SOME WERE PREOCCUPIED IN LOOKING FOR JESUS
Joseph and Mary were looking for Jesus…especially after Gabriel revealed God's plan to Mary and the angel of the Lord confirmed it to Joseph. (Luke 1; Matthew 1)
The wise men of the east were looking for Jesus. They knew a special baby was to be born Who would be King of the Jews and when they saw a certain star they knew it was "His star" and they followed it so they could worship Him. (Matthew 2:1-11).
Zacharias and Elizabeth were looking for Jesus. They were the parents of a six months old baby boy who an angel told Zacharias to name John. They were told that John would be a forerunner to go before Jesus to prepare a great host of people to believe on Him (Luke 1:13-17).
Simeon was looking for Jesus. We are told that he was a just and devout man to whom it was revealed that he would not taste of death until he saw the Lord's Christ. (Luke 2:25-32).
Anna, a prophetess of great age, was looking for Jesus. She continued to serve God with fasting and prayers and just happened to come into the Temple when Simeon was holding Jesus. She joined Simeon in thanksgiving to God and went forth speaking of Jesus "to all those who looked for the redemption of Jerusalem." (Luke 2:37, 38).
The adulterous woman of Sychar in Samaria was looking for Jesus. Listen to her words, "I know that Messiah is coming (who is called Christ); When He comes, He will tell us all things." (John 4:25) No wonder Jesus had been impressed that He had to pass through Samaria (John 4:4). Jesus had to bring salvation to this sinful woman and a host of others who were also looking for Him (See John 4:42).
Those who were preoccupied with other things to the point they had no room in their thoughts for Him missed His first coming. Those who were looking for Him came to meet Him personally in time. It has been that way down through history. It is still the same today.
Does He have a place in your thoughts and in your heart?
Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scriptures quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted