“Mary,” Joseph said. “Do you see Bethlehem, ahead, up in the hills?”
Squinting into the morning sun, Mary said, “Oh, yes, I’m so glad we’re almost there, but not as glad as seeing those olive trees just down the road. Let’s stop and rest.”
It was morning of the fifth day of Joseph and Mary’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where they would register and pay their taxes. The trip was more arduous than normal, because Mary was about to give birth to the baby Jesus. However, the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus decreed the time and place, and they had to obey, thus, they walked the approximately 90 mile trip. They were thankful it was spring, which meant they weren’t subject to heat during the day, but the evenings were still chilly.
At the olive trees, Joseph helped Mary sit down, took off her sandals and she leaned against the trunk of the tree. “Oh, this feels good,” she said. “I have an idea, leave the water pouch, and I’ll wait here while you go into Bethlehem and register for both of us and pay our taxes.”
Joseph laughed gently at his betrothed, “I’m sure, but don’t you remember you said you wanted to send a personal message to Caesar about his timing for this census?”
“Oh yes, I forgot. Guess I better go with you, but let’s sit for awhile, please,” she said.
The two of them sat and absorbed the respite from their journey. Mary broke the silence saying, “Joseph, have you thought any more about the things that angel said to each of us? I mean, he said that God favored me, I was going to get pregnant while a virgin, and that nothing is impossible with God. Now, it’s all coming true and I feel at peace, but I’m confused and kinda scared."
“I know how you feel” said Joseph. “Like I’ve said before, when I found out you were pregnant I was going to send you somewhere, but an angel came to me in a dream and said it was ok, because you were pregnant with God’s Son and He would save His people from their sins. He even told me to name the baby Jesus. And here we are, never slept together and about to be parents, going to Bethlehem to register like a normal family. Yes, I’m confused, too. It’s sorta like Caesar and the census. We would have done it differently, but we had no other choice than to follow another plan.”
“But,” Mary said. “The angel said not to fear, which is more than Caesar had to say about what he is making us do. C’mon, we better go. All of a sudden I’m excited. Glad we talked about this again.”
Bethlehem was teeming with people when Joseph and Mary arrived, and no inn had a vacancy, so they stayed in the manger. “And she gave birth to her first born son; and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn,” Luke 2:7 NASB. In the Biblical context, a manger was either an animal feeding trough or an open yard next to, or attached to an inn. Guests would keep their animals in the manger while they stayed at the inn, or those who could not afford the inns rates would bed down in that area. The context uses both meanings Mary gave birth to Jesus in a manger, and then laid Him in a manger.
The Son of God was born in less than luxurious surroundings, and died under less than luxurious conditions. However, He accomplished the purpose He came for, which was to explain God, and proclaim the good news that through Him the Father provides a way of salvation for His elect. The proof that Jesus is God is both in His birth, and in His empty tomb. A virgin gave birth to Him, and after He died on a cross they buried Him in a tomb, rolled a boulder in front of the opening, and sealed it. Three days later He arose from the dead, and walked out of the tomb. Only God can cause Himself to be born of a virgin, and arise from the dead.
Yes, Christmas is a remembrance of His birth, but His birth and death are inextricably interlinked in a plan conceived in eternity past.
The Biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus were from Matthew 2, and Luke 1 and 2, NASB.