So…I have a major attachment to my planner! First, because it’s super cute. Second, I seem to have somewhat of an obsession with being able to cross things off as they are accomplished. I probably look at my planner too many times during the day, but I guess my obsession could be with something worse! As much as I love to plan, I am reminded that the greatest love story of all time (though it was absolutely planned by God) was not the plan that Mary and Joseph probably had written in their planners. But, they surely remained faithful to God!
To gain a better perspective of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, we are going to look at the Gospel of Luke. The events that surrounded the birth of Christ may not seem like the ideal plans; but through these events, God accomplished His ultimate plan. And that plan would make it possible for each of us to trust in Jesus as our Savior! From Luke 2:1-7 we will examine the minor details surrounding Jesus’ birth and their major influence on God’s bigger story.
The Purpose of the Census
I know it is almost impossible to imagine what life must have been like before technology came into the world, but let’s try to think about that for just a moment. A census meant that every single person had to return to his/her hometown in order to be counted…by hand! Therefore, Joseph and Mary had to return to Bethlehem. Even though they did not know the importance of it at the time, the purpose was far greater than just gathering accurate data. God was silently preparing a place and people to welcome the Savior of the world. God was also fulfilling a prophecy found in Micah 5:2. Understand this: God was completely sovereign over the timing of this census as He knew that Jesus would come into the world as soon as Mary and Joseph reached Bethlehem. Nothing with God is coincidental; He knows best!
The Importance of the Lineage
Verse 4 says that Joseph was required to return to Bethlehem, “because he was of the house and the lineage of David.” A pretty straightforward and easy-to-read statement that holds such a deeper importance and meaning. All throughout the Old Testament, there are numerous promises and prophecies of the coming of Jesus Christ, given to various individuals. In Genesis 22:18 God promises that the Messiah will come from Abraham’s line; Genesis 49:10 explains that Jesus will come from the line of Judah. In Jeremiah 23:5 Jesus is pictured as a Branch coming from David’s family tree. In 2 Samuel 7:12-14 God establishes a covenant with David promising him that the coming Messiah would continue David’s kingdom forever. I mean, how cool is that?! God promises an individual that someone is going to manifest his kingdom FOREVER! That’s a pretty big deal, and the One who is going to manifest it forever must be an even BIGGER deal! The lineage, obviously, was directly under God’s sovereign design and plan.
The Difficulty of the Journey
Bible scholars have noted that the journey Mary and Joseph embarked on from Nazareth to Bethlehem in order to take part in the census was somewhere around 70 miles or more! No, there weren’t luxurious cars to take them on this journey, but rather there were camels and donkeys and rough, mountainous terrain all along the way. On top of that, Mary was due to give birth to Jesus in just a short time! What if Mary had chosen to stay in Nazareth because the journey would be too hard? That would have been a really appealing decision for me if I was Mary! Instead, she trusted the Lord and remained faithful to Him as He had promised to remain faithful to her! Her plans were not His plans. Even in the midst of difficult and trying circumstances that aren’t a part of our plans, the Lord ALWAYS chooses to remain faithful to us; praise God for that promise!
The Humility of Christ’s Birth
When I was a little kid, my brother and I would recite the Christmas story by memory for our family every Christmas Eve. After so many years of hearing and reciting this story, I think verse 7 will always be the Christmas verse I remember most. We read all throughout Scripture about Christ’s humility, but it truly began at His birth! Again, we see God’s sovereignty over timing, place, and plans in just this one verse. The King of the world was placed in an animal trough as soon as He entered the world, because every other inn was already taken. He was born into such need, though He deserved every fancy as the Son of God and King of heaven. But, Philippians 2 says that Jesus was born “in the likeness of man.” What more of a perfect example of love and humility could we ever have than in Jesus Christ who was born as a man and placed in the manger of a stable when He was in fact God?! Our perfect and only true example of humility comes from Jesus Christ alone!
God perfectly orchestrated this moment in time where all the details lined up to prove His love. Girls, Jesus was born in a manger for you, and He did it all out of love! God could have planned an extravagant birth in the prettiest, most upscale place, but He chose to show us humility and love by relating to us. Ann Voskamp paints this picture so beautifully in The Greatest Gift:
“Love had to come back for you. Love had to get to you. The Love that has been coming for you since the beginning – He slays dragons for you. This is the truest love story of history, and it’s His Story, and it’s for you. All the other fairy-tale love stories only echo your yearning for the truest, realest one – this one that has its beginning before the beginning of time. This night, you on this visited planet, your rescue is here. You can breathe.”
I urge you to stop dreaming about the perfect love story, because we have it right here in these verses. And stop obsessing over ruined plans, because He rules the timelines! Be encouraged by the love in humility we see in Jesus’ birth, and know He did it all (the census, the preservation of a family line, the journey, the manger) to show love – for YOU! He requires nothing from you, just your love and declaration of Him as Lord in return.
Dear Lord, thank You for Your perfect example of humility and love for us. God, we long to rest in the promise that You have a perfect plan for each of our lives. As we are reminded of Your faithfulness to Mary and Joseph, may we continue to grow in our faithfulness to You. Jesus, may we always remember that You did it all out of love for each one of us.
The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
“Hope is Alive” by Ellie Holcomb