By Allen White
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:1-20 (NIV)
Over the course of my life, I think I’ve heard these words recited mostly by Linus on A Charlie Brown Christmas. Though Linus chose to recite from the Authorized Version, the words are very familiar.
One outstanding feature of this passage is that it is historical as well as theological. The events really happened with real people.
As archeologists sift through ancient debris in the Holy Land, they have discovered that Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus ruled from 31 BC to 14 AD (www.britannica.com). Without his decree, Mary and Joseph wouldn’t have traveled to Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral home. There was no other reason to make this trip with a pregnant wife. Caesar Augustus unknowingly fulfilled a prophecy regarding the Messiah (Micah 5:1-2).
Publius Sulpicius Quirinius (45 BC – 21 AD) was a Roman Senator and the governor of Syria (www.livius.org). While Quirinius was made famous by his mention in Luke 2, he had many other political and military accomplishments to his name that are well documented in history.
There is so much that could be said about this passage. Every angle gives us a new perspective. But, the most important part of this is what is true in your life because of this account. A baby arrived in a stable over 2000 years ago. How are you different because of Him?
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