Summary: Often we end the Christmas story when the wise men returned home but the story continued.
So here we are at the end of the first chapter in the Story of Jesus. If you have been with us since the beginning of the advent season then you know that we have been looking at some of the mysteries of Christmas. We started with the mystery of the Virgin Birth and how it had been prophesied hundreds of years before by the prophet Isaiah and we looked at various reasons of why we should believe that Mary was a virgin. The bible foretold it and she affirmed it when the angel Gabriel told her that she would become pregnant she replied by saying Luke 1:34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” In the original language she doesn’t actually use the word Virgin she says “I have never been with a man”
But the ultimate reason is that Jesus could only have one father and you will either believe that Joseph the Carpenter was Jesus’ father or you will believe that God the creator of the Universe was Jesus’ father, but they can’t both be Jesus’ father.
Then we looked at the trip that Joseph made with the very pregnant Mary, a trip that took them from Nazareth, up here just 24 Kms southwest of the Sea of Galilee to Bethlehem which was 120 kms away over rugged terrain. A trip that probably would have taken them the best part of a week and in the very best of situations they would have ridden donkeys. Donkeys! You ever ride on a donkey? You ever ride on a donkey 9 months pregnant?
You would have to wonder what would ever possess a man to take his very pregnant wife on that type of journey. Madness or perhaps there was another explanation or two. Within the scriptures we discovered the answers. The first part of the answer lies in the Old Testament, it was prophesied by the Prophet Micah. You will remember that King David was considered the greatest king that Israel ever had, and he was born in Bethlehem and throughout the Old Testament it was declared that the coming Messiah would be a descendent of David and Micah wrote this hundreds of years before the birth of Christ: Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.
But the second part of the answer is not found hundreds of years before Christ’s birth but at the very time of Christ’s birth. Luke 2:1-4 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home.
Not sure that Mary and Joseph would have seen it as a fortuitous situation but it certainly meant that they were where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there.
And when they arrived in Bethlehem, they discovered either that they should have made reservations or they had made them and they were lost because we are told that Luke 2:6-7 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
If I was planning the birth of the Son of God I think I would have taken care of that detail, the angel Gabriel is all over this story and he either forgets to find them a place to stay or books them into a stable.
There have been times that we have arrived at a place where we had made reservations and probably should have stayed in a barn. But as with the rest of the story there was a reason, it was not simply by happenstance or by error that the son of God would be born in a stable.
From his very conception we see the hand of God; it would be naive to think that the birth place of Jesus was accidental. And so because of the humble birth place of Christ it was accessible on that first morning even to those who proper folks wouldn’t have invited into their homes . . . shepherds. And two thousand years later Jesus remains accessible to each of us, regardless of our place on the social registry or the fortune 500.
And just two days ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus, sang of Virgins and Bethlehem, of mangers and shepherds and for most of us the Christmas story finished as the shepherds returned to their fields and the Wise Men silently headed east returning to their mysterious home.