By James J. Fire
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
The Nativity of the Son of God
*~And so began this marvelous journey, a holy pilgrimage, not to a holy place, but rather accompanying the holy Child within the womb of the virgin, Mary the espoused to Joseph, both descendents of King David, of the House of Judah.
Look at a map and you will find Nazareth in northern Israel in far away Galilee; from here this blessed couple made their arduous and painfully slow voyage all the way to Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem.
On the back of a mule, feeling every bump in the road, Mary who was “great with child” had one of the most difficult struggles of her very young life. Yet such a journey was necessary, not because of the royal edict of the Caesar of Rome, but because of the Holy edict and proclamation of prophecy, from the prophet Micah:
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
And Isaiah confirms that this child would be the One upon Whose shoulder the government would rest:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
On a side note, there are those skeptics who like to point out a supposed Scriptural error regarding Cyrenius, who according to some records was the governor of Syria before this time. However, what most don’t realize is that he was actually governor of Syria – twice! For more on this, visit this site:
Truth For Today - Difficulties and Apparent Contradictions in the Bible
Let’s move on:
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Having been to Israel, twice, we visited Nazareth on both occasions and stood shoulder to shoulder, surrounding a manger, a stone carved feeding or drinking trough for animals. This is where the King of all creation was laid after being delivered into this world of sin, not out of choice, but actually because Joseph and His mother had no choice. Whether by lack of accommodations or because of the stigma against Mary and rumors about her illegitimate child, “there was no room for them in the inn.” The first of countless occurrences where Christ would be rejected . . .
And such humble beginnings too: born in a barn! What King have you ever learned about in history class that was born in a barn? What Child was this? Here was the Savior babe “in such mean estate”, wrapped in swaddling clothes – have you ever wondered what ‘swaddling’ is? Watch this brief one minute youtube to find out what this is and how it’s done:
How to Swaddle Your Baby
Some have suggested that because this couple was so poor, that they used whatever was available to them for this swaddling; patches of cloth used for the bedding of lambs in the barn. Yet here was the very Lamb of God wrapped in such course material!
Now this manger scene is almost complete; add to this the ruckus of barn yard animals, and until Joseph had time to clear it all away, the foul deposits of said creatures. Until the Babe actually was born, the barn would have also had, reverberating on its walls, the cries of this young lady in the throes of child birth. Now everything is quiet – a silent night. Perhaps even the animals were aware of the Holy Company that they kept that night. Yet Joseph and Mary were soon to have some other company as well . . .
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
For this reason it’s believed that this Blessed Event did not take place in the winter, as shepherds in Israel were not accustomed to keeping their sheep in open fields at this time, but rather corralled, together with the sheep of other shepherds, where collectively, they would stay safe and warm, and shepherds would stay close to the fires.
These men, watching over their flocks were probably gazing at the brilliant, glorious stars under a Spring or Autumn sky. All was quiet with the exception of some bleating sheep; perhaps one of the shepherds softly played a flute, fashioned on the spot from some nearby reeds (a common practice among Jewish shepherds who would lead their flocks to its lilting sound, an almost pied piper practice!).
All was routine and mundane; a night very much like all the previous ones; perhaps even a boring and monotonous night with very little chance of an interesting intervention to break it up.
Yet in the very next instant their night, their very lives and the entirety of their worldview was tipped upside down and spun dizzily on their heads when suddenly a burst of holy light exploded into the darkness, and they saw a brilliant, glorious being that far exceeded the stars in brightness – an angel of God!
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
Let’s face it, angels didn’t routinely come around Israel in those days; being visited by one was not a common occurrence! To say that they were “sore (very) afraid” is putting it mildly, especially when all you would expect to see on such a night were the familiar faces of your wooly brood! As terrifying as this unannounced visitation was, the news that this angelic being brought far exceeded the awesome event:
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
One thing about shepherds is that they are not known for their scholarly prowess or high brow cogitations; yet even such ignorant shepherds as these would know about the Messiah (“Christ”) of Israel, He Who is the “Son of David” that would be born in the city of David (“Bethlehem” – which interestingly means “house of bread.” The LORD Jesus would later proclaim Himself to be the “Bread of Life”).
All of Israel was under the oppressive and heavy hand of the Roman Empire; bereft of self-ruling autonomy as a free nation, once glorious under Kings David and Solomon, the people of Israel lived in a land deemed merely as an insignificant but troublesome province by the Roman authorities. They longed for, and expected their Messiah King to arrive, who would eclipse the martial powers of such famous warriors as Joshua, and David, and deliver them from their Roman oppressors.
Little did they know that the Messiah would be on an entirely different mission this time around (and fulfill the latter mission of delivering Israel from the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24) at His second advent)! As the angel said, he brought “good tidings” which is really what ‘the Gospel’ means, and it certainly is! The birth of the Messiah was the commencement of the Gospel in action, in accord with the plan of God since before the foundation of the world!
To think that the Messiah would be born on this night, and that a holy angel would make his appearance to such lowly persons as these shepherds (whose fingers were known to be somewhat sticky, and merchandise would be prone to disappear any time they passed through town) to announce this EVENT of the AGES!
Yet according to this angel, they would find the Messiah – in a manger, a feeding trough? Was this angel confused? How could such a thing be?? He also said that this would be “good tidings of great joy which shall be … to ALL people”?? Why would the coming of the Messiah be good tidings for any one but the Jews? What would Gentiles have to do with any of this (this was the current thinking of the Jews at the time of Jesus’ earthly life)?
When the shepherds went on their way to Bethlehem, they eventually came to the very spot where they beheld this wonderful sight of the Savior of His people Israel! In between the proclamation of this angel and that visitation, they beheld another display of angelic declaration:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Indeed, the glory of God revealed was about to come upon the land and people of Israel, and the blessed Name of the Highest praised and extolled for the mighty works of His Servant-King that would come lowly to His people, from the humblest of beginnings to an even humbler life. I am reminded of the verse where it says:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Not only rest for our souls, but also blessed and enduring peace, even as the angels declared: “…on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Another criticism from skeptics and cynics is this angelic announcement of “peace on earth” when for the last two thousand years the world has known greater and increasingly intense tragic occurrences of war, violence, strife, contention, misery and suffering: so… where is this “peace on earth”?? And “good will toward men”??
Let's listen to Johnny Cash sing about this, he provides a very good answer to such skepticism:
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
The peace spoken of here is that which God extended, and continues to extend to the people of this fallen world, by bringing to us the very Prince of Peace (as we quoted from Isaiah 9:6), the LORD Jesus Christ.
Behold upon the mountains the feet of Him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace . . .
Being sinners by nature, we were at enmity against the holy God of all creation (Rom. 5:10), and any sin we committed could legitimately be considered in His Holy Court of Law an act of treason, punishable by eternal death (separation from God). We are a people in dire need of reconciliation with the LORD our Maker!
God in His grace and mercy made provision for our sin, and offered up His own Beloved Son, the Lamb of God (John 3:16; John 1:29) and therefore bringing reconciliation for us! We would no longer be counted as enemies, having our sins forgiven; because of this provision by God, we would enjoy peace with God (Rom. 5:1)! This is the peace offered to people everywhere, the same peace as proclaimed by the angels to those shepherds two thousand years ago, and foretold some several hundred years before that by the holy prophets!
Any who receives the Prince of Peace and His propitiation for our sins not only will have peace with God, but will also experience the peace OF God (Phil. 4:7; Col. 3:15) and peace FROM God (See Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2 and elsewhere in all the greetings and benedictions penned in the epistles of Paul).
Just think for a moment, that if the vast majority of humanity actually received this Greatest and most Profound Christmas Gift ever given: the LORD Jesus Christ and His awesome salvation – how different this world would be! Wars would be a rare thing; violence would be almost unheard of; injustice and poverty would be seldom witnessed. There would indeed be peace on earth and good will not just toward all people, but among them as well!
Sadly however, Jesus Christ is rejected all the more in these last days, and since human beings have no peace with their Maker, their hearts are also then absent of any peace (Isaiah 48:22) and in continuous turmoil (Isaiah 57:20). Bent upon self will and selfish ambitions which run contrary to the hearts of others in such turmoil, they propagate the sin empowered strife and therein lies the problem inherent in such conflicts as war, oppression, criminal activity, wanton acts of violence, etc. (Jer. 8: 15; 30: 5; Ezek. 7: 25).
Division and discord will only increase, until the false Christ, the Beast arrives on the scene; this ‘Christ’ rather than the genuine Jesus Christ will be accepted by every one (except those loyal to the Messiah) just as the LORD Himself prophesied in John 5:43. He will unite all of humanity in a false peace on Earth; this sinful race will be in one accord with this man of sin, the son of perdition (2 Thess. 2:3) because both operate from the same spirit of disobedience (Eph. 2:2) in defiance against God Almighty (Dan. 8: 25). Unity is not peace; peace must be based upon Truth, and Truth is contrary to Unity that is based on relativism. For more on this, watch this brief video from the series KNOW YOUR ENEMY -
Deception: Truth vs. Unity (Part 68)
Yet once the LORD Jesus returns (and this will be quite soon for those that belong to the church I believe!) to inaugurate His rightful rule as the Messiah King, He will put down the reign of the Beast, consign both him and his false prophet to Gehenna (the lake of fire; Rev. 19:20) and commence the Millennial Reign where peace will prevail – though still, some pockets of rebellion will appear, even then!
Yet after one final rebellion, with Lucifer, who will at that time be recently released from the abyss (Rev. 20:7 – 10), it will be decisively put down and the curse of sin tainting both the Earth and the heavens will be done away with – in order to make way for a New Earth and a New Heavens, pure and unscathed by sin, but existing with an “abundance of peace” (Ps. 37: 11) reserved for the saints of the most High God!
This Christmas season, may I greatly encourage you to consider Jesus, the Prince of Life, the Prince of Peace and the LORD of Glory! He extends an invitation to any one who is convinced of their sin and sinful ways, will repent by turning from their sins and surrender their hearts to the LORD. Do you desire to know God in a living, breathing, loving relationship with Him as a Heavenly Father? Then come before Him humbly and receive salvation and the eternal peace that accompanies it.
JESUS is the veritable reason for the season! If you want to know more about the Gospel, you can access two different sources from here: the short or long version.
For the long, detailed version, just type “Simple Serious Gospel” into the TTUF search engine, and a few links will appear and you can read each of these segments as you like.
For the shorter version, click on this link to an article posted FROM the MIND of FIRE:
The TRUE Gospel: Accept No Imitations!
By receiving the LORD Jesus Christ (Matt. 10:40; John 1:12; Col. 2:6), the Prince of Peace into your life, you will be part of the prophetic fulfillment of “peace on earth and good will to men” as pronounced by the angel to those shepherds so long ago! He is the ultimate, the best and dearest gift you will ever receive, bar none!
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Remember that while the LORD Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), the LORD is offering peace to you, not wanting to count you as an enemy, but a friend, and not only a friend, but His child, born of His Spirit as His child (John 1:12), born of grace and peace . . .
Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.