“About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral home town to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.

“While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped Him in a blanket and laid Him in a manger because there was no room in the hostel.” Luke 2:1-7

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? A young man and his pregnant fiancée! It could be the story of any young couple in today’s world of free sex and blurred morality, in fact, very little morality when you come to think of it. Anyone reading this story for the first time would think that this is a story about our times.

However, Luke has already made it quite clear that Mary’s pregnancy was not the result of a one night stand or a young couple who couldn’t wait. She was a highly favoured teenage girl whom God chose to be the earthly mother of His Son. The baby who was so soon to be born was no ordinary kid. Yes, He was an ordinary human being like you and me and yet His conception was the union of the human and the divine, God stepping down for a season to become one of us.

Because of a government decree, Joseph and Mary had to make the gruelling journey to Bethlehem to join the head count in their ancestral home town. Why then, of all times? Mary’s pregnancy was almost full term. How could she make the long trip before the baby came? There was no train or bus service and certainly no plane to make the flight in an hour or so. This was a long journey on the back of a donkey over rough terrain which would take many days.

But they had to go and they went.

To crown it all, every nook and cranny of the town was filled with visitors. Every house with a spare room was full. There were no luxury hotels to make the situation easier for them. They had to take what shelter they could get and make the best of it. The only space in the local hostel was the downstairs room where the cooking was done and where the animals were sheltered at night.

And then, on top of that, Mary went into labour! What did she think about all this? Didn’t God know that this was not the place for His Son to be born? After all, He was the Son of God. At least God could have arranged it that they have a place in someone’s home where there was female help for this young girl having her first baby!

But God knew exactly what He was doing. Centuries before, through the mouth of the prophet Micah, God promised a ruler who would come from Bethlehem. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2 (NIV). But Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth.

They would have to be moved from Nazareth to Bethlehem at the right moment for the child to be born there. How could they be forced to make the journey at such a crucial time? Only a government decree would motivate them to relocate to Bethlehem. And why in such a lowly place? It was God’s idea to stage His Son’s entry into the world in a place so humble that no one could ever think that they were excluded from His grace.

But Bethlehem was David’s town; David the youngest of Jesse’s sons and a shepherd boy, a despised occupation and yet he was also David, Israel’s greatest king. It was fitting that Jesus be born in Bethlehem because He was of the house and lineage of David even though David’s birthplace was a humble village.

This is just like God, isn’t it? He didn’t only come to earth but He came to a scenario that was below the level of human beings so that He could lift us up. Even His death was the death of the lowest of the low. He could not go any lower.

And now, He cannot go any higher, because He is the highest of the high!

Luella Campbell

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