We know the Christmas story. Beginning about mid-October we are inundated with the holiday scene. We live it, breathe it, hear it, smell it, and feast on it. We prepare for it, shop for it. We know the “Ho! Ho! Ho’s!” and the jingle bells and the chestnuts roasting on an open fire. We wrap the gifts and relish the joys of family. It’s ingrained in our hearts and minds from the time we are small waiting for the arrival of jolly old St. Nick. We’re acquainted with Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. We know the Christmas story. Or do we?
The story of Christmas began in the heart of God even before the foundation of the world, because God knew from the beginning that man would need a Savior. It was followed by a garden and eating a piece of forbidden fruit. Separation from God, pain, toil, and death ensued, but also the promise of a Son, born to a woman, who would someday crush the head of the evil one. Adam and Eve waited. The Scriptures predicted it. The prophets foretold it, and the world waited, and waited and waited. But the wait was about to be over. “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 their 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.” Luke 2:1-5 A Roman ruler, Caesar Augustus, issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. His real name was Octavian and he was the adopted heir and actual grandnephew of Julius Caesar. He lived in Rome, worshiped Roman gods, and during his reign he was looked to as a son of god. Upon his death, he was declared to be a god. So, this one, who wanted to be called a god, had no idea that his decree was about to set into motion the fulfillment of a Scripture written some 700 years before regarding the One True Living God. Micah 5:2 says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” The little town of Bethlehem was prophesied to be the birthplace of the Messiah, but Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth, about ninety miles away. Mary was great with child. Her due date was right around the corner. It seems likely that they wouldn’t really have wanted to take a ninety-mile hike through the Judean countryside at this stage of the game. But the prophecy said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and the prophecy had to be fulfilled. Don’t you love how God puts all the pieces together to fulfill His Word? Augustus just “happened” to have the idea to register the people, but coincidence is not a kosher word. This was God directed and Mary and Joseph, being descendants of King David, had to go to Bethlehem to register.