“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 their own town to register. 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, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
Luke 2:1-7 NIV
““But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.””
Micah 5:2 NIV
“Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old.”
1 Samuel 17:12 NIV
Samuel traveled to Bethlehem. He was on mission from God. Saul had failed again. King Saul just didn’t have the heart of one who would follow after God, so God chose another. The closer Samuel got to Bethlehem, the more he prayed asking for guidance. As he drew near to the shepherd’s home, he became silent for he was listening as God guided him. Samuel wanted to get this right. Saul had broke his heart. Saul had broken the Lord God’s heart by his selfish behavior. Samuel held the chalice of oil. He had come on orders of the Commander of the angel army. He had traveled to Bethlehem to anoint the next king of Israel. God had led him to the home of Jesse the shepherd who had eight sons. One by one Jesse’s son’s paraded before Samuel, and as each one passed, Samuel heard the voice of the Lord, “This is not the one.” “Do you have another son?” Samuel asked Jesse as the seventh son passed before him. “Yes,” Jesse replied. “My youngest, but he is a small ruddy kid still in his youth. He couldn’t possibly be who God would choose.” “Call him,” was Samuel’s only reply. And as the scrawny young boy approached, Samuel knew, for Samuel had been given the vision to see things as God sees them. “Some may see a shepherd boy, but God sees a king.” David passed before Samuel. Samuel heard God speak, “Anoint this child.”
Hundreds of years later, Micah sat at his writing desk, listening to the words the Lord God was giving him to share with His people Israel. He was God’s chosen prophet for this time. He was the one God was using to turn wayward Israel back to The One True God. God spoke, Micah listened, then he recorded God’s spoken message. “But you Bethlehem Ephrathah…”
Hundred of years later, Ceasar Augustus was parading through his palace. He was admiring himself and all he had accomplished during his reign. Throughout most of his empire, he was known as the emperor who had brought peace throughout his realm. He thought of himself as the king of peace. He chose to ignore the discontent among his people, and chose to squash any rebellion that might rise up. And so he carried on with this peaceful facade. But now on this day, he felt an urgency rising up in him. He couldn’t place where on earth this urge came from, but he knew he must enact a census throughout his realm. He needed to now just how many people he ruled over. He must know how many people he ruled throughout his “peaceful realm.” So Ceasar Augustus issued a decree…
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” Galatians 4:4
LORD GOD sat in His throne room. All things were set. He had sent Gabriel to deliver the messages. He used Ceasar Augustus to issue the decree. “Out of Bethlehem…” God always knew this would be the town His Only Begotten would enter thier world. Satan believes the earth is his domain, but “The Plan” would liberate the captives for all of time. His Angel Armies were surrounding the pregnant woman and her husband. Their swords were drawn and at the ready. Lucifer would not take this plan of attack lying down. God readied His Army for the fiercest attack thus far in this battle of Good and Evil. The Plan of Salvation was His victory march. “The Plan” had been laid out since before the foundation of the world. Lucifer couldn’t believe The Creator would be so bold. He couldn’t believe that even He would stoop so low for those He had created. Yes, God had better believe he would throw the most vile of weapons to thwart this Battle Plan.
“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.”
Revelation 12:1-17 NIV
Mary waddled through their home gathering last minute supplies for the long journey ahead. She looked at Joseph with great love and admiration. He was a good man. He was an honorable man. He had prepared a good home, a safe home for her and this baby she carried. He had come for her even though… Even though she carried a child not his own. One day after he had found out about the pregnancy, Joseph had shown up on her father’s doorstep. He had come to carry her away to “their home.” She always knew somehow God would make all things work for her good and His Glory. The moment she told the angel Gabriel, “Let it be done to me as you have said.” She knew she had placed her whole life into the Lord’s protective care, and now God had provided for her more than she could ever ask, think or imagine. This loving, caring man had provided her and the baby this wonderful home. Joseph had not touched her not even once. He slept in one room while she slept peacefully in their marriage bed alone. He honored her and he honored the baby. He would call him son while in public, but in the privacy of their home, Joseph would call Him “Lord.”
“Mary,” Joseph called her back from her musing. “It is time. The caravan is ready to depart. We must go register in Bethlehem.” Joseph saw her gather the rest of her bag. His heart sunk. This would be a hard journey. Her belly was bulging. The Child within her took up her whole midsection. “God!” he cried out. Surely the Lord God would not let His Only Son be born into this world on this arduous journey. “God, I am not that strong. I am not the person You think I am. How can I protect the mother of God on this road?” Joseph silently prayed. The unseen Angel Army walked Mary to the caravan. Swords were drawn as Joseph helped her onto the donkey.
Days later, after many cliffs and dangers had passed, the lights of Bethlehem were in their sights. Joseph was shocked at the crowds. Pilgrims from all parts of the realm were scurrying to their birthplaces. Bethlehem was no different. Hundreds of thousands were pressing into this tiny village. Again Joseph’s heart sank. He knew even before he knocked there would be no room for him in this inn. He had knocked on every door hoping and praying for just a small space where he and especially Mary could get some rest. The road had been long and hard. He knew she was uncomfortable on the donkey. At one point the pain had become so bad he feared for Mary and the Baby’s life. He had cried out to God for protection and safety. The pain subsided instantly. He felt a Presence surrounding them. There were no words to describe the safety and peace he felt in that moment. It was like a force from inside Mary’s womb had spoken and darkness had fled. This whole journey had been unbelievable. The course his life had just taken was unbelievable. But now he couldn’t believe this. He couldn’t possibly believe the Lord God Almighty would allow this. No way would Jesus enter the world like this. Surely all of Judah and all of Israel would be made aware that their long awaited Messiah was about to make his entrance. “Not here God. Not here of all places. Surely not, Lord God. No one is paying attention. Everyone is to busy. People are pouring into this tiny city and no one is noticing this woman who is obviously about to give birth. Is there no one who wants to offer compassion? The only thing the innkeepers are after is the profit they will reap during this census.” Joseph prayed on as he knocked at the door of this bustling inn. He knew before the door even opened what the answer would be. He brought Mary into the light hoping the innkeeper would see her state and be sympathetic to their plight. “There is no room,” the innkeeper stated, “but I have a stable out back. Maybe you could make her comfortable in the soft hay.” The pains of childbirth were now upon her. The innkeeper led them behind his inn. His lantern lit the dark path.
The Commander of the Angel Armies had his troops line the darkened way with swords drawn as Mary and Joseph followed the innkeeper. All they could see was the lantern light, but the Glory of the Lord was glowing inside her womb as He was about to make his entrance. “This Light from on High” was about to dawn upon this bustling darkened village. “The Plan” was about to be unveiled but many would miss it because this was not what they expected their deliverance to look like. And it would catch the enemy off guard also. The evil leader and his vicious horde would never think of looking in a stinky smelly manger. This manger, this setting, was Just the Right Place for the Prince of Peace to make his royal entrance. It was the place prepared for her and Him before the foundation of the world. And His Angel Army stood with swords and shields drawn. They were a force to be reckoned with. They were His bodyguards.
Joseph raked the hay and cleaned it and fluffed it as soft as he could, as Mary doubled over and fell into the mound of hay with that last contraction.
Merry Christmas Eve everybody!