“In those days it occurred that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole Roman empire should be registered. This was the first enrollment, and it was made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all the people were going to be registered, each to his own city or town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the town of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his espoused (married) wife, who was about to become a mother.“
Historically this could be looked at as simply a reference point of time. But the more I think about it I think that it shows that God can and will use outside circumstances and unbelievers to help fulfill His will. If Caesar had not sent out that decree, what business would Joseph have had in Bethlehem? None or at most possibly something he would have put off until Mary had delivered Jesus. Mary, who was in her last month of pregnancy, and still chose to accompany her husband on this week long trip. This decree could not be ignored. So they went together, as one.
“And while they were there, the time came for her delivery. And she gave birth to her Son, her Firstborn; and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room or place for them in the inn.“
God knew that His Son would be born in a stable, but what better place to be born than among the creatures who would have recognized His Spirit? While man had no room for Him, creation recognized and rejoiced in His coming. From the animals to the stars, creation rejoiced.
There being no room for Him with man is a foreshadowing of His life later on. Joseph probably knocked on more than one door, but there was always the same answer. No room. There was no room for Him to be born just like there was no room for Him in the hearts of Israel, leading to Him dying on a cross.
“And in that vicinity there were shepherds living [out under the open sky] in the field, watching [in shifts] over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people. For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord! And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find [after searching] a Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.“
The angel said that this great news would come to all people, not just to Israel but to all people. The angel made it clear that Jesus was born for man, saying, “For to you is born…” not, “For unto Mary…” or, “For unto the virgin foretold is born.” Jesus was born of Mary but He was not born to just her. I don’t think one could get any plainer in telling people that Jesus came for everyone, not just the Israelites. Just imagine–the greatest joy that creation has ever known was contained in a tiny baby. And yet His birth would be far reaching for eternity.
The Shepherds had to search for Him, but they had the promise of finding Him. We, too, are called to search for Him, but hold the promise of finding Him.
“Then suddenly there appeared with the angel an army of the troops of heaven (a heavenly knighthood), praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest [heaven], and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased [men of goodwill, of His favor]. When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing (saying) that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”
Brighter than the stars, this knighthood of heralds would’ve been heard for miles. Perhaps even reaching Joseph and Mary as they held Jesus. This was Jesus’ fanfare. Not of this earth but of His heavenly kingdom. The shepherds didn’t hesitate or deliberate. They simply went.
“So they went with haste and [by searching] found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known what had been told them concerning this Child. And all who heard it were astounded and marveled at what the shepherds told them. But Mary was keeping within herself all these things (sayings), weighing and pondering them in her heart.“
Mary and Joseph were not alone, they were not the only ones the shepherds spoke to. They had to search, that means asking questions from people. As they searched, the shepherds piqued people’s curiosity and had gained a crowd that followed them. Then their testimony changed people’s lives. How else could they have known who or what they were looking for? The people who heard their testimony knew they hadn’t known where to find Jesus and Mary and Joseph. They were strangers, there was no way the shepherds knew them.
Mary knew Jesus’ purpose, Gabriel had told her. Yet she pondered these words. I think at this point Mary was starting to realize that Jesus wasn’t here just to free Israel. She was weighing and meditating in her heart, not simply storing precious memories. What was she weighing and pondering against? Scriptures, prophesies that had been given years before. Perhaps this was the beginning of her knowledge and understanding–her revelation–of Jesus’ ultimate purpose.
“And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, just as it had been told them.”
The shepherds went back to their families and friends, sharing the good news with all in their lives. They did not keep silent. Do we keep silent about the good news and things that God has done in our life?
“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men [astrologers] from the east came to Jerusalem asking, Where is He Who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east at its rising and have come to worship Him.”
The star showed the way to Jesus at His birth. The cross showed the way at His death. Both of these are still shadows of Jesus, Himself, as He points the way to God and reconciliation with Him.
“When Herod the king heard this, he was disturbed and troubled…Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, Go and search for the Child carefully and diligently, and when you have found Him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him.“
Herod was troubled because he did not want a challenger to his power and position. All he saw was his earthly kingdom. We have to look beyond our earthly position to God’s Kingdom or we will resist the full extent of God’s plan, no matter the joy and freedom it will ultimately, eternally bring.
Herod had no intention of following through on his word. Once he received word that the wise men had found Jesus, Herod would have sent someone to kill Him. Herod dealt in secrecy and the dark, nothing was of the light.
“When they had listened to the king, they went their way, and behold the star which had been seen in the east in its rising went before them until it came and stood over the place where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they were thrilled with ecstatic joy. And on going into the house, they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then opening their treasure bags, they presented to Him gifts–gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
Jesus was not still in the stable. However, the star still pointed the way to Him. Even now, if we but look there are still signs pointing the way to Jesus no matter how far we feel from Him. Their joy would be the same feeling one gets when about to open presents or experiencing something one has looked forward to for a long time.
“And receiving an answer to their asking, they were divinely instructed and warned in a dream not to go back to Herod; so they departed to their own country by a different way.“
The wise men obviously had doubts about Herod for they asked God and He revealed that they could not trust Herod. Then they inquired and God provided a different way for them. God gives us discernment for a reason. We need to use it and seek God. He will lead us the way we should go. The different way wasn’t just in protection of His Son, but for the wise men as well.
“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” John 1:14
Want to read about the Birth of Jesus for yourself?
You can find it in Luke 2:1-20
Want to read the full story of the Wise Men?
You can find it in Matthew 2:1-12