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Summary: God chose the most humble circumstances possible for the entrance of His Son into the world. He did this that we might know His love and receive Him as one of us.

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“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” [1]

All history focuses on one singular point as time and eternity meet to commemorate the birth of a child. It has been rightly said that history is His story. Had one of our contemporaries written the account of the birth of the Son of God, that one would no doubt have arranged for the child to be born in a castle, or perhaps in the home of some powerful, notable individual so that the child would have every advantage to promote His agenda. However, we are cautioned that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts; neither are His ways our ways [see ISAIAH 55:8]. God chose the most humble of circumstances for the advent of His Son. The Son of God had neither material advantage nor stature when He came into this needy world. Few were looking for His advent, though God had repeatedly told of His coming through the millennia prior to His birth.

The text before us introduces us to the people who were living within a conquered nation as His heritage, a disgraced mother as His caregiver and protector, a sheepcote as His castle, and a manger as His royal couch. Could any more humble situation be imagined for the advent of the King of kings? Yet, it pleased the Lord God of heaven and earth to send His Son in such humble circumstances to deliver us from our sin.

A CONQUERED PEOPLE — “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.”

Two rulers are introduced—one appears as a giant in history; but his significance was quickly eclipsed by the second. Caesar Augustus must have seemed to his contemporaries as the greatest king ever raised up to rule among men. He spoke, and the entire civilised world was compelled to obey. Peace reigned throughout the Empire because of him. The doors to the Temple of Janus had been closed for a decade; they would remain closed for an additional thirty years. All foes had been beaten into submission and no one dared disturb the peace of the Empire. Caius Octavius adopted the name Caesar as a courtesy to his great uncle, Julius Caesar. He conferred on himself the title Augustus, taken from the word augur, and thus indicating a religious sanction. The republic had been transformed into an empire and he was at the apex of power.

The other ruler to whom we are introduced in this chapter had fists which clenched the fingers of His mother whenever He was unwrapped to nurse. He was dependent upon a teenage girl for cleanliness, for nourishment and for consolation whenever His hot tears flowed. He rested in a bed of straw or hay, tightly wrapped in strips of cloth as was the custom among the poorer people of that insignificant nation into which He was born. His cries attracted only His father and mother at this time, occasioning no attention in the world at large.

Two individuals—one adulated and considered great while the other was insignificant in every way. Yet, the one thought to be great at that time was an unwitting agent of the Living God to accomplish the divine will. The other, unimportant and inconsequential in the eyes of the world, was the Creator, bridging the gulf between heaven and earth to bring the offer of the peace of God to all who would receive it. The one had imposed a sort of peace on the Empire through brute force; but the latter was the Prince of Peace who gives to all who will receive Him eternal peace and hope.

Caesar Augustus issued a decree, and his word was law. The Roman world was to be counted for taxation purposes. Jews were exempt from military duty, so we know that this census was for taxation purposes. Jewish custom was that an individual was required to travel to the ancestral home in order to be counted. There is so much more here than first meets the eye.

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