Caesar Augustus, the unrelenting ruler of the Roman Empire decreed “the whole world under my rule should be taxed.” He would take no for an answer!
As time went on, caravans of Judeans could be seen moving from Nazareth into Judea to a small city there called Bethlehem. One such Jewish family was led by Joseph the Carpenter with Mary his wife who was great with child. She most likely was on the little family donkey, used for all burden bearing, while Joseph walked, leading the donkey. “How are you feeling, Mary dear?” Joseph asked his young wife.
“I am beginning to have birth pains, she replied between gasps of breath! We must find a room soon or I will be forced to bear this child out here in the open plain!”
Joseph moved hurriedly, as fast as the little donkey could move, looking high and low for a room in any establishment. The local Inn had turned them away as they were at full capacity. The innkeeper would not accommodate them at any price, and did not know that he was turning away the very King that Israel had long awaited. Not one household had any available room as many travelers had overrun the little town of Bethlehem. Ironically, this little town, Bethlehem, in the Hebrew language meant, ‘Place of God’s Bread’!
As the footsteps of a good man are ordered of God, Joseph was led to a small cave in the side of a hill carved out as a stable. Making Mary as comfortable as possible, the only other thing that Joseph could do was to await the birth of the baby. He must have had many thoughts racing through his mind as he sat waiting beside Mary holding her hand as the birth pains increased. “The angel did not tell me that the birth would be in a dirty stable! I know that the instructions were from God, but He did not tell us that we would have to leave our home in Nazareth and have the babe in unfamiliar surroundings!” Sometimes a good thing is brought about through difficult circumstances, as we all know!
As the baby finally made its exit from the safety of Mary’s womb into the cruel Roman world, she only had some swaddling cloth used to wrap the oxen’s neck before the yoke was placed on it! She did the best she could and wrapped the babe in it. The only cradle she had was the manger where the animals ate hay. She must have placed her shawl over some hay to make the newborn as comfortable as possible. Thus was the humble entrance of the King of Kings into this life, a far cry from the decorated rooms where children are born today!
There were shepherds tending their flocks on the Judean hills at the time of this birth. It was definitely not in the winter time as the plains around Bethlehem would be covered with snow and surely there would be no shepherds out there in the cold! Suddenly, the shepherds were visited by a stranger, called the angel of the Lord, and as this being was accompanied by the glory of the heavens, the shepherds became terribly frightened. The angel told them, “Don’t be afraid! I am here to bring you good news that will bring you great joy! This will be to all expectant people. In Bethlehem, a baby was just born who will be the Savior, and this Savior is Christ the Lord. The sign to show that I am telling you the truth is that you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloth and lying in a manger!”
It is certain that some of the shepherds doubted what the angel had told them. In any group of people who are visited by heavenly beings there are three types of believers: there are believers, make-believers, and unbelievers! Then an unexpected event occurred that would make the hardest heart believe if it should happen today, a host of heavenly beings appeared with the angel praising God and declaring, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!”
Just as suddenly as the heavenly host appeared, they departed back to where they came from. The shepherds began to discuss what they had been told and to one another they said, “Let’s go now over to Bethlehem and see this thing which has happened that the Lord has made known unto us.” Some may ask, “Why did God choose shepherds to first worship the newborn? Why did he have to be born in a stable?” The answer is simple. Christ was the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world! These shepherds became the first chroniclers of the newborn King. They began broadcasting the news in the streets of Bethlehem to anyone who cared to listen! Who would better understand lambs than Shepherds?
The night that Jesus was born, a long awaited star appeared to some magi* in an observatory in the east. These were descendants of men who had been taught by Daniel the Hebrew prophet the sign that they should look for when the Messiah was to be born. After preparation, these men, some say three, left all their kinfolk and began the long journey, probably walking, as there is no mention of them riding camels. The star that they saw did not leave their sight as they made their way toward Jerusalem. They must have thought that if anyone knew about a King of the Jews being born, the rulers of Jerusalem would surely know. The star was extinguished as they came near Jerusalem. This should have told them that the child was not there. They persisted in asking around, “Where is the child that was born about two years ago that was to be the King of the Jews?” This is how long it took them to get there after the star appeared.
After they told Herod the king what they sought, the king was very troubled indeed, and of course the trouble rippled down to the lowest of the citizens. He demanded of his chief priests and scribes who keep records of such promises, “Where was this Christ child supposed to be born?” They replied, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for it is promised in the sacred writings of our fathers!”
Herod was a sly old fox! He asked the magi, “When did that star appear that you have been following?” Their answer led the cruel king later to kill all the boy children that were two years old and under so he would be sure to get the right one!
To the magi he said, “Go to Bethlehem, find the young child and when you have found him, bring me word again so that I can go to worship him.” This is not what he intended to do at all!
As the magi left Jerusalem, the star appeared once again leading them to the house that Joseph and Mary now lived in and where Jesus, now a child of about two years old lived. They gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh as a pattern of the child’s life. Gold, to be crowned as king, frankincense, to anoint Him for His job, and myrrh (bitterness) as a symbol of the death he was to die! After the magi had worshipped the child, they departed to their home another way causing Herod great anger so that he could fulfill the saying, “In Rama there was a voice heard, lamentation, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not!
This all leads us to a very important question? Where is the newborn faith born today as Herod still persists in killing the newborn before it can grow into what God intended it to do in the first place? The childlike nature is born in human hearts that are intended to fulfill the purpose of their Creator! The adversary, the spirit of disobedience, is angry and attacks anyone who insists on believing the Spirit of Truth in its entirety! He stands before the one giving birth ready to devour the newborn as soon as it is born!
*According to Snopes:
The wise men came “into the house,” not the stable, and they saw a “young child,” not a newborn. This passage indicates that the wise men didn’t arrive until quite some time after Jesus’ birth. (According to Luke 2, it was shepherds, not wise men, who visited the infant Jesus in the manger.)
To sum up: we know from the Bible that wise men came from the east, that they followed a star to Bethlehem to find the Christ child, and that they brought him gold, and frankincense and myrrh. We must look to sources external to the Bible to find the origins of any of the other familiar details, however.