Summary: A Christmas Eve devotion that calls on those who listen to make room for the Christ.

“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” [LUKE 2:1-7].

Tomorrow, we will witness an incredible event. Throughout our land, strange occurrences will be observed. In both major cities and in smaller towns, streets that are normally filled with traffic and sidewalks that normally bustle with pedestrians will be empty. Drivers in any major city will not experience delays. There’ll be no jostling on the sidewalks of any of the great cities of the land. Stores that are normally filled with shoppers will be closed—no clerks will be available to serve you. Except for those engaged in emergency response of one type of another, people that are normally busy tending to all the affairs within the nation will not be working. Families with small children will be wakened earlier than any other day of the year; parents will be forced to get out of bed as the shrill voices of their children exhort them to hurry. This is the continuing impact of an event that happened almost two thousand years ago.

That “something” was the birth of a child; but it was no ordinary child. An old man seeing the child for the first time blessed the mother and then prophesied, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” [LUKE 2:34-35]. This child was born to die, but His death would accomplish far more than the death of any mere mortal.

I invite each of us sharing this Christmas Eve service to meditate on that Child’s birth. That is, after all, what Christmas is about. I want to scope in on the immediate events of that night, and how it all came to be.

NO ROOM THEN — Rome was occupied with the need to maintain peace throughout the empire. There were constant incursions along the borders as wild tribes attacked the Romans whom they saw as threatening their homelands. Additionally, there were insurrections pushed by militant peoples who had been conquered. Rome ran roughshod over these people, considering them inferior to Romans and unworthy of serious consideration. Such attitudes generated hostility toward Rome, ensuring constant unrest. Because of resentment against Rome, these insurrections broke out with alarming regularity; they were a constant threat to the empire. It cost money to maintain troops, to push the boundaries or to keep a restless populace in check.

Here is a truth that is sometimes forgotten—governments do not create wealth, citizens create wealth—governments can only seize wealth from those over whom it rules. Thus, to fund his military exploits, Augustus ordered that all within the confines of the empire were to be taxed. Unlike this day, with computers and credit cards and chequing accounts to pay for governmental demands, those living within the empire were required to travel to the city of their birth where the amount that the government assessed would be required in cash.

Thus, a young man, barely more than a boy by contemporary criteria, together with his wife to whom he was betrothed, were compelled to make the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a distance of some one hundred fifty kilometers. The young couple would have been inconvenienced, but rulers are seldom concerned for the impact of their edicts on those whom they see as “subjects.” The journey would have taken time—time that was costing the young man because he would need to pay for the trip and he would be unable to work while he was away. The journey was no doubt made more difficult by the fact that his wife was pregnant.

Powerful rulers imagine that they are doing what they want to do, seldom realising that there is a God Who rules over the world and Who overrules the world. Caesar Augustus no doubt thought that he was generating the means by which to maintain the empire, never aware that God was engineering the entire taxation event to move one family to an insignificant town just outside of Jerusalem. There, the child, conceived by the Holy Spirit, would be born.

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