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.
This passage begins with the world’s most powerful man and ends with the birth of a helpless child to a poor, forgotten family. Caesar Augustus, a tyrant with unquestioned authority and god-like status in the eyes of his subordinates, issued a decree that forced people all over the Roman world to interrupt their lives, travel far away, and give an accounting of their personal affairs. What took only the wave of the emperor’s hand disrupted the lives of countless people like Mary and Joseph for weeks or months on end. Caesar didn’t care that Mary was expecting a child. He wasn’t concerned that no one would take them in for the night. The emperor couldn’t care less about the tribulations of that little family who welcomed their firstborn in a stable instead of an inn, wrapped him in rough cloth instead of a fine gown, and placed him in a dirty feeding trough instead of a warm crib. Caesar and the principalities and powers of this world didn’t even notice that Jesus was born that night.
Later in the story we’ll hear about the choir of angels and the Magi bearing gifts for the newborn King, but for now we can’t ignore the contrast between Caesar and the Christ-child, between the world’s vainglory and the Savior’s humility. In the shadow of worldly power and prestige, many people feel unworthy and unnoticed. Jesus’ humble birth, however, proves God cares for all people, no matter how insignificant or powerless we may seem in the eyes of the world. Jesus came to lift up the downtrodden, to give hope to the oppressed and to offer new life to those who know the sting of death. Jesus understands our struggles and hurts, our poverty and loneliness. He understands because He walked where we walk. He came not as a mighty ruler but as a lowly servant.
While we draw comfort from Jesus’ humble birth and find hope in the surprising mercy of God on sinners like us, we also remember that Jesus is the King of Kings. His birth may have gone unnoticed by those sitting on earthly thrones, but Jesus came with the power of God and would soon show the world just how mighty and how merciful our God is. Caesar Augustus wielded authority for a few short years and enjoyed the fleeting luxuries of worldly riches. Jesus, while denying himself the comforts and glories of heaven, exercised the inexhaustible strength of God Almighty and remains our King and Savior forever.
Thank You, Father, for sending Jesus to be my King. Help me to honor Him in all I do and to trust in Your mercy and strength for all my needs. I pray in the name of the King of Kings. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian