Luke 2:1-7 (ESV)
1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Luke transitions the reader from the birth of John the Baptist to the birth of Jesus. The events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist were unusual, but the events surrounding the birth of Jesus were nothing less than extraordinary. Right before Mary was to deliver her son, Caesar Augustus decided it was time for a registration. Augustus decreed that people must return to the city of their ancestors to register so they could properly pay the taxes owed to Rome. Joseph and Mary must have thought, “Are you kidding me? We have to travel 85 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem right now? Ugh.” What was God doing? It had to have been a real drag for the heavily pregnant Mary to ride on a donkey all the way to Bethlehem. And to make matters even worse, when Joseph and Mary arrived, there was no place for them to stay. Can you imagine being ready to bear your first child and being denied a place to rest your head? Again, what was God doing? Mary went into labor and gave birth to Jesus in Bethlehem, and she was forced to put her newborn boy in a place where animals were kept. In fact, he was put into a manger or a feeding trough because they simply couldn’t afford to buy a place under a proper roof (v. 7).
Micah 5:2, written 400 years before the birth of Jesus, declares the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary were from Nazareth, not Bethlehem. How could God get Joseph and Mary to move almost 100 miles south? Mary would be out of her mind to travel during the last days of her pregnancy unless she had no choice. God orchestrated the circumstances by prompting Caesar Augustus to issue the decree. This truth should cause us to stop and bow in humble submission before the Lord. God uses situations, people, and even great world rulers to carry out his purposes. What is happening in your life right now that seems absurd for God to allow? Mary had no idea why God let her undergo these strange circumstances right as she was to give birth. And Caesar Augustus had no idea how God was using him to fulfill Old Testament prophecy. Even when things seem tough or unreasonable, the Christian can trust in God’s ability to manage both the big picture and as well as the little details of her life.