1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to their own towns to be registered. 4 Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see - I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Luke, Linus, and Us
by Todd D. Still, Ph.D.
As Advent concludes and Christmas commences, we do well to read again and to reflect anew upon the story of the Jesus' Nativity bequeathed to us by Luke. These rightly famous lines help us to focus afresh on "the reason for the season."
The now iconic A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired on December 9, 1965. Although the show's producers and CBS executives were fearful that the show would flop, the animated television special was and continues to be enthusiastically received by audiences young and old worldwide.
This 25 minute and 25 second show reaches its zenith when an exasperated Charlie Brown exclaims, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?" With his beloved blue blanket in hand, Linus approaches and assures Charlie Brown that he can tell him what Christmas is all about. Taking center stage, Linus calls for the lights and then recites Luke 2:8-15. Having done so, he returns to his friend, who now has a red blanket in hand, to reiterate that this passage captures Christmas at its core.
And, so it does. With economy of word, simplicity of speech, and profundity of thought, Luke helps Linus—and us—to know that which we call Christmas is all about. During Advent, Christ-followers anticipate a Lord that has, will, and is come. Luke's Nativity helps us to see and to celebrate the arrival of a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord (see Luke 2:11).
Furthermore, the canticle recorded in Luke 2:14 (commonly known as the Gloria in excelsis Deo, which was first sung by the heavenly host) reverberates throughout the Gospel and across time. God is to be praised to the highest heaven for sending his Son, who was born not only to Mary but also to and for us (Luke 2:7, 11, 19).
This is good news of great joy for all people (Luke 2:10). The gospel, which is incarnational (note the historical particulars woven throughout Luke's narrative), is both universal and transformational. The shepherds saw this (Luke 2:20). So did Linus. We can, too, thanks to Luke, and praise be to God.
P.S. If you would like to view the episode from A Charlie Brown Christmas to which I refer above, then you may follow this link.
Learn More About Our Guest Writer
Todd D. Still, Ph.D.
Todd D. Still, Ph.D., is The Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran DeLancey Dean and The William M. Hinson Professor of Christian Scriptures in Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Dr. Still is a New Testament scholar, focusing on Thessalonians and Pauline Epistles.
Dr. Still is the author of Conflict in Thessalonica and the co-author of Thinking Through Paul. He has also written three commentaries (on Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon respectively), and some fifty articles that have appeared in such venues as New Testament Studies, Journal of Biblical Literature, and Catholic Biblical Quarterly. He has also edited or co-edited ten volumes (including the award-winning Lightfoot Legacy Set) and has made over one hundred academic presentations. Presently, he is under contract to write a guide to the Thessalonian Letters (T&T Clark), a reading of 1-2 Corinthians (SPCK), and a companion to Pauline interpretation (T&T Clark). In addition to his administrative and academic work, Dr. Still is committed to and involved in local churches across Texas.