By Rev. Dr. Sergio Arevalo, Jr.
Dec 24, 2014 (7 pm, Sambang Gabi)
Tonight is the last night of our Sambang Gabi or vigil for the advent of Jesus Christ. We prepared for this season, we prepared or brought food, and snacks. We prepared our liturgies and messages. We prepared our sanctuary, sound systems, music instruments, kitchen, dining hall and our school. We invited guests, singers and preachers. We labor and we worried. Despite all these things we are joyful and we hope to repeat this next year.
We thank all brethren who gave time, treasures and talents just to make sure our daily Sambang Gabi were successful.
If we were busy in preparing for the advent, 2000 years ago the world was also busy for the registration of all subjects of Caesar Augustus.
I. The Registration During the Time of Caesar Augustus
Luke 2:1-5 says, “Now in those days an order was published by Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be registered. This was the first registration taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all the people went to their hometowns to be registered. Joseph, too, went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was a descendant of the household and family of David. He went there to be registered with Mary, who had been promised to him in marriage and was pregnant.”
That registration was decreed with a view to the assessment of a tax.
II. The Birth of Jesus
During this time that the couple, Joseph and Mary, went to Bethlehem. “While they were there, the time came for her to have her baby, and she gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a feeding trough, because there was no place for them in the guest quarters” (Luke 2:6-7).
When I was reading this passage I was wondering how did Mary give birth to baby Jesus? What position? Was there any midwife or who served as midwife? Do you think Joseph did it?
In my research I found out that women gave birth in a standing, kneeling or squatting position (probably a combination of these as the birth progressed. They used brightly painted birthing bricks to stand or kneel on over a scooped out hole, or they sat on a birth-stool/chair. In the Roman world there were special birthing chairs with a U-shaped hole in the seat and supports for the feet and back, and well-to-do Jewish women in the later biblical period would have used these too.
For sure Mary had no birthing bricks or birthing chair when she delivered the baby Jesus.
As soon as a baby was born, usually it was washed by the midwife. She used items that may seem strange to the modern reader: olive oil, salt, warm water, and sometimes diluted wine. Each ingredient had a purpose: the salt and wine had antiseptic qualities; the water melted and diluted them; and the oil was soothing to the baby’s skin.
Immediately after this cleansing, the baby was wrapped in coarsely woven linen strips. In our passage today mentioned that Mary wrapped her newborn baby son in bands of cloth. This was normal practice in that time (www.womeninthebible.net/childbirth.htm).
In the birth of Jesus, Mary suffered to deliver him, and the baby Jesus did not experience the comfort of his birth.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, watching their flock during the night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
Then the angel told them, “Stop being afraid! Listen! I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people. Today your Savior, the Lord Messiah, was born in the city of David. And this will be a sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:8-12).
In the Gospel of Luke, the evangelist gave priority to the shepherds. The angel announced the good news of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds in the fields.
While the shepherds were listening to the angel, more angels came and praising God, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to people who enjoy his favor!” (Luke 2:13-14).
In the first stanza of the angels’ song there are two secret of peaceful life: (1) Give Glory to God; (2) Enjoy God’s favor by serving him.
J.S. Bach said, “All music should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the soul’s refreshment; where this is not remembered there is no real music but only a devilish hub-bub.”
He headed his compositions: “J.J.” “Jesus Juva” which means “Jesus help me.”
He ended them “S.D.G.” “Soli Dei gratia” which means “To God alone the praise” (Kingdom Conflict, J. Stowell, Victor, 1985, p. 77ff.).
During this Christmas season, it’s high time to give glory to God and to serve him with great joy.