The story of Jesus’ birth is so beautiful and clear and bright that the best way to read it is straight from the book of Luke:
“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 his own town to register.”
Wow. Do you see how carefully Luke recorded the details of history? We can look in history books about the Roman Empire and find the names of all these rulers. God moved in time with His unseen hand to make everything work out just as He planned.
Augustus, the greatest ruler the Roman Empire would ever see, wanted to know how many lived under his rule. All the people of Israel had to return to the towns and lands of their ancient families so that the Romans could count them and keep track of their numbers. That meant Joseph and Mary had to go to the Bethlehem. This is what Luke wrote:
“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. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn Son. She wrapped Hhim in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
What a strange place for God to be born! Instead of a royal palace where the kings and rulers of the earth could honor His coming, the Son of God was born to a common family and wrapped in scraps of cloth to cover His nakedness.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a Baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
Suddenly a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men
on whom His favor rests.’
Wow! What a glorious display! Can you imagine what it must have been like for those shepherds? Try to picture it in your mind. There they were, common men, out in the night with their sheep feeding and sleeping all around them. The night must have been thick and dark in a time when there was no electricity. Imagine the brilliance of the stars in the vast, inky, black sky. Imagine the quiet, whole silence of a time with no cars or radios or televisions. The only sounds would have been the peaceful rest of nature; the wind in the trees, the bleating of the sheep, and the sound of their own low voices. And then suddenly, there was an angel, a great, majestic being before them, telling them magnificent news! And suddenly again the glory of a great heavenly host appeared and surrounded them! God chose these poor laborers to be the ones to hear the greatest royal herald in human history! The Savior had come!
“When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this Child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:1-20
The Most High God, in His perfect beauty and wisdom, had ordained that the heralds of the Messiah, the great King, on the night of His birth, would be from among the common laborers of the day. For you see, it was for the salvation of men such as these that the King had come!
There are so many beautiful songs that have been written over thousands of years to celebrate that amazing night. We can join the angels in our worship of the One who is worthy:
Oh Holy Night
Angels We Have Heard on High