· · · Overview · · ·
These events serve to underline to our souls that God is in control. He moves Caesar in Rome to set conditions for a census of everyone under Roman dominion. Joseph and Mary are caught up in that, but Jehovah is ensuring that His Son, in accordance with the prophetic scriptures, would be born in Bethlehem. Little do we realise how God still controls events today as He works out His purposes that you and I are part of.
The shepherds are among the remnant few who were waiting for the Messiah to come. God rewards their faith with an angelic choir and an announcement that filled their hearts with joy.
We too ought to find our joy in Christ the Son of God. What they had heard and seen made a difference to their testimony and worship. So ought we to “make it known abroad” that Jesus is still the only Saviour for sinners.
The Decree (verses 1-5)
God moves the most powerful man in the world, Caesar, to issue a decree to order everyone under Roman dominion to be taxed. Luke makes the historical note that this happened when Cyrenius was governor in Syria. It meant that everyone had to go to register in the city of their birth to complete the census Caesar had commanded.
Joseph was forced then to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem in Judah, because he was descended from David the King and Bethlehem was the city of David. So Joseph made the journey and took with him Mary to whom he was betrothed, and Mary was very near to the delivery of her child.
The Days were accomplished (verses 6-7)
While there at Bethlehem, Mary delivered her child. The birth is simply stated and happened in a natural way. Mary wrapped the child in swaddling bands and laid Him in a manger. They had evidently tried to find a place at the inn, but, because of the amount of people registering for taxation, there was no room for them in the inn.
The Display of glory (verses 8-14)
Near to Bethlehem, shepherds watched their flocks in the fields. They must have been part of the remnant of Israel waiting for Messiah to come. So the angel of the Lord appears and the glory of the Lord shines around them. Fear filled their hearts, but reassurance is immediately given by the angel with the simple instruction to “Fear not.” The revelation of the Saviour’s birth is then proclaimed and the sign of the babe in swaddling clothes in the manger given to guide them. Suddenly the whole sky was lit up with a whole host of angels praising God and saying “Glory to God” and “good will toward men.”
The Decision of the shepherds (verses 15-20)
Once the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds determined to go immediately to see the things they had been told and hurried on their way to Bethlehem. So they found Mary and Joseph, and the child in the manger, as directed by the angels. When they had taken in the scene, they made known to everyone round about what had been revealed to them about this child by the angels. This caused great wonder amongst the people at what had come to pass. However, Mary kept her thoughts to herself about these momentous things and simply kept turning them over in her mind and heart. The shepherds then returned full of joy and worship to God because of the great privilege they had been given to witness these events.
The Duties of the law (verses 21-24)
As with John Baptist, so now with the Lord, He is circumcised on the eighth day and given the name Jesus, as the angel had decreed to Mary. Then, after 40 days, the little family made their way to Jerusalem so that Mary could make an offering for her purification. It was required that the firstborn son should be presented to the Lord according to Exodus 13. We also learn here how poor Mary and Joseph were, in that they could offer only the lowliest of sacrifices for Mary’s cleansing in the turtledoves or young pigeons (see Leviticus 12.1-8).