“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.” – Luke 2:1
Last night after dinner, with candles lit and the Christmas tree glowing, my family and I read these words aloud. The sovereign of Rome commanded the Jews to report to their place of birth so that they could be counted. Pregnant wife? Too bad. She’s nearing labor? Doesn’t matter. The king has commanded you to go, and if you fail to obey you will be brutally punished.
This was advent season for God’s servants. This was how the righteous couple would spend their Christmas eve, as Mary bore the light of the world. But Luke seems to nod to the fact that there is more to the story than what is immediately seen. Joseph and the child—at this critical hour—are being sent away from the town of Nazareth to “the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David” (Lk 2:4). Considering that verses 6 and 7 offer such a modest description of the Lord’s physical birth, it’s worth lingering for a moment on why Luke chose to include so much information about the places and lineage of Joseph in verse 4. Luke wants us to see that an earthly ruler made a decree, and the net effect of that decree was that the Son of David (lineage), would be brought to the tribal place of David (Judea), and to the precise location of the long awaited Messiah’s birth (Bethlehem). This is not a coincidence.
In all the inconvenience and pain that came with having to deal with a registration, God was at work. And what he was doing behind the scenes was bringing grace and everlasting life to the world. The Sovereign of Rome commanded the Jews to report to their place of birth to be counted. Pregnant wife? He understands. This child is from God, and God will be with you the whole way. She’s nearing labor? Do not fear. The Lord has prepared the place for His Messiah from ancient days. The King has commanded you to go, and through your obedience, the world will see the salvation of God.
In this season, when you consider your own circumstances, do you see the truth that behind the scenes, God is graciously at work (Rom 8:28); and through your obedience, you can show the people around you the saving grace and glory of your God (2 Cor 3:18)? Through the coming, the dying and the rising of Christ, the King has become your promise of peace. Go to Him, and find rest for your souls.
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.” – Micah 5:2–5