The Reason for Christmas

“Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.

This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.nativity

And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night.

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.’

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’

And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’

And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.”

Luke 2:1-16 NASB

The Reason for Christmas

“Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.

This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city.

cross and Christmas treeAnd Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.

And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night.

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

And the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.’

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’

And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’

And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.”

Luke 2:1-16 NASB

Caesar Who?

He’s only mentioned one time in the Gospel accounts although history knows quite a bit about him. He came to power because he inherited the Roman kingdom from his great-uncle Julius Caesar. Most historians praise him because he restored peace after 100 years of civil war.

Caesar AugustusCaesar Augustus, a minor character in the Christmas story yet an important cog in the historical wheel, teaches us a vital lesson about current events.

C.A. maintained an honest government and a sound currency system. No problems with fiscal cliffs under his reign. He developed an efficient postal service and extended the highway system. These were the same refurbished highways that Paul later traveled on his missionary journeys.

Because C.A. brought organization, stability and order to the Roman world – he is considered to be one of the most successful Roman emperors.
So why do we focus on him in this post? Because God used Caesar Augustus to fulfill a 600-year old prophecy.

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, 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” (Micah 5:2 New Living Translation).

600 years before the Christmas story took place, the prophet Micah wrote about the birth of a King – tiny King Jesus – in Bethlehem. But Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth. How would God get them to Bethlehem?

“At that time the Roman emperor, Caesar 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. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant” (Luke 2:1-5 New Living Translation).

C.A. called for a census, so Joseph and Mary traveled the roughly 70 miles to Bethlehem where Jesus was born, where angels announced His birth, where shepherds came to worship Him.

Sometimes in our modern yet still struggling culture, we think only certain leaders can make a difference. Yet God used Caesar Augustus to get His Son, Jesus, to the right place at the right time.

God can still make miracles happen – even in the most unlikely of places.

© 2012 GateWay of Hope Ministries

An Honorable Man

He plays one of the smaller roles in the Christmas story, yet because of his integrity – God chose him as step-father for the holy.

Joseph, son of another Jacob, is mentioned in the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1. This was the man whose fiancé, Mary, received more attention than he. In fact, most nativity scenes dress Mary in royal blue with a halo around her face while Joseph stands in the background, clothed in a drab brown robe.

A strong man knows when to step forward but also when to step back.

Joseph is the intuitive character who listens to angels, both before and after the birth of Jesus. He follows instructions to the letter, probably an important habit for a carpenter.

Joseph listens to the Angel
Joseph listens to the Angel

He is the righteous man who refuses to condemn Mary to a public stoning, even after she is found to be pregnant before their marriage. Instead, he quietly marries her and supports her calling as the virgin mother of the Messiah.

He is the man of integrity who refuses to consummate their marriage until after her baby is born.

He protects the mother and child, moves them away from Herod and into Egypt, then back to Nazareth when it is safe.

Joseph appears in just a few scenes within the first two chapters of Matthew. Then after a brief cameo appearance when Jesus was 12 and impressing teachers at the synagogue, Joseph disappears.

Legend tells us that he must have been the one who taught Jesus how to craft furniture, removed splinters from the young Messiah’s hands and modeled patience while building, sanding and polishing finished products.

Scripture also implies that he died long before young Jesus began his public ministry. Joseph left a widow and several children, including his step-son Jesus, the Christ.

Joseph lived as an honorable man who played an important yet virtually silent role in the Christmas story. His example lives on and reminds us that God can use each of us in a mighty way – no matter how public or private our roles.

© 2012 GateWay of Hope Ministries