Over the objections of my fellow workers, I start playing Christmas music in the office in October. Some Christmas music immediately brings me back to special moments as a boy in wintery Michigan. Christmas is a very special season to me.
I know that Christmas has been hijacked by mass marketing, materialism and all of that, but with just a little effort, one can easily enjoy the richness of our Savior moving from a heavenly realm into the mire of our human dilemma by reviewing the scriptures.
If considered, the events leading up to the birth of Christ are fascinating. A statistically impossible series of events begins as Caesar Augustus calls for a census in Rome. Once declared, the edict for a census was disbursed to the entire Roman Empire by dispatchers on foot, on horseback or across oceans through multiple ships. All peoples were mandated to return to their town of origin.
One particular copy of that edict left on a ship, likely from the port in modern day Naples, only be passed on to another ship or two somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Months later the edict for a census makes its way to a port in Joppa, now in modern-day Israel.
From there, the Caesar’s edict would have been copied and distributed to villages and cities throughout Judea, Samaria and the Galilee region. Despite inevitable delays and likely storms at sea, and the possibility of a horse turning up lame, that very edict would have been posted in Nazareth at just the precise time for a betrothed man named Joseph to read it. Joseph would have just enough time to travel 85 miles over rocky terrain, with a third trimester teenager, who gives birth to the Savior of the world at the exact time in the exact location under the exact conditions mandated by a Caesar but more so by our Heavenly Father. Multiple Old Testament prophecies are being fulfilled as this entire intricate and divinely-timed process unfolds. All of this was initiated by a pagan Caesar deciding to take a census while taking a stroll on his veranda. Is God not in control?
Just outside Bethlehem (“the house of bread”) are shepherd’s fields. On the periphery of the fields, these craggy caves provide safe haven for many flocks during the night. It was probable that one of these caves witnessed the birth of Christ who is both the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” and at the same time our “Good Shepherd” (John 1:29, John 10:11). What might that experience have been like for a scared teenage girl in first century Palestine?
Certainly, the caves were filthy. Pariah dogs, neighborhood scavengers, would frequent the caves when not trolling for garbage in the streets. There, somewhere in the cave was a manger or “feeding trough” for animals to eat from. There is, of course, the presence of excrement and bacteria in such a damp and cold sheep fold.
Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life was born in a feeding trough, in a town meaning “house of bread” in conditions no one would allow their child to near let alone be born in.
This Christmas we celebrate the prophetic edict and its delivery under the watchful eye of our caring Father. We celebrate the sovereignty of God in a world that is seemingly falling apart. We celebrate the birth of Christ in a prophetic location at a prophetic time under prophetic conditions. This Christmas we can see that prophetically the world and its systems are falling apart. Can we not look at the biblical birth of Christ this year, knowing that the Father has all things under control and that Christ Himself is holding all things together? (Colossians 1:17).
Enjoy and make this a Merry Christmas in Christ. Blessings on you and yours.
Dr. Gary Hewins is the President of lifepoints.org, a coaching and consulting ministry to ministry leaders and preachers and the Senior Pastor of Community Bible Church in the picturesque mountains of Highlands, NC.