Luke chapter two contains the most complete description of the miraculous virgin birth of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. It begins in (v.1) with the historical record telling us that Caesar Augustus, the emperor of Rome, decreed that 'all the world should be taxed.' This decree demanded that all the known inhabited world, citizen by citizen of the Roman empire had to return to the city of their house and lineage to be registered for a taxation census. This called for both Joseph and Mary to return to Bethlehem, the city of David as they both were descendants of David, the most famous and revered king of Israel.
Although the story sounds serene and peaceful, the phrase 'in those days' (v.1) refers to the darkest days in Israel's history as they were at this point crushed under the heel of this tyrannical dictator Caesar Augustus. Even though there was 'peace' it was only due to the fact that there was no effort to liberate the people for they were bludgeoned into submission by the presence of an overbearing Roman army. No man, woman or child could resist their mighty authority and so 'in those days' meant the days of the darkest hour the world had ever seen.
In this time of extreme darkness and despair, when 'Cyrenius was governor (head of the military) of Syria�all went to be taxed , every one into his own city'(v.2,3). Although many people lived in the city of their lineage, there were thousands of others who had to travel a great distance to conform to this decree, but it was the hand of God moving in the life of Joseph and Mary, bringing them to Bethlehem, so that the prophecy of Micah 5:2,4 might be fulfilled: 'But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, tho' thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler of Israel whose goings forth have been of old from everlasting�for now shall He be great unto the ends of the earth.'
In reality the insignificant ones in the narrative of Luke 2 and in the ultimate history of the world are Caesar Augustus and Cyrenius, for the most miraculous and important birth ever was about to take place in Bethlehem, the birth of the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ! And this Roman taxation census decree would bring about the will of God as prophesied by Micah hundreds of years earlier�yes, the Savior of the world would be born in Bethlehem!
From Nazareth to Bethlehem, a little over 75 miles, was a considerable journey of three to four days depending on the mode of transportation, but because Joseph and Mary were of the family of David, their trip was required for obedience to the Roman decree. However, their understanding of Who the Child was that Mary would bring forth could well have motivated them to make sure He was born in Bethlehem, Their likely knowledge of the Word of God and the prophecy of Micah might have been the major reason they traveled to Bethlehem with Mary's delivery so close to occurring.
The word 'espoused' in (v.5) literally means betrothed, promised in marriage, or engaged. She was 'great with child' used only here in the New Testament and simply means pregnant. 'And so it was that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered' (v.6). Here the word 'delivered' means to bring forth or to bear fruit and it is used again in (v.7) translated 'brought forth' and in (v.11) the word translated 'born' is derived from the same Greek word.
'When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law.' (Galatians 4:4) Yes, God's time was now ready for His Son to be brought into the realm of man, to deliver all mankind from the penalty, power, and ultimately, the presence of sin if only man would receive Him as Savior. 'But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name. Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth' (John 1:12-14).
The Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Living Word, was made flesh. The incarnation of God Himself, the birth and life of the Lord Jesus Christ, are here being referred to by John in the opening chapter of his Gospel. 'And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn' (Luke 2:7). The most important event in the history of mankind has just been recorded in this simple yet most profound verse of Scripture. The first Coming of the Son of God is now set down in the annals of history. The birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Savior, the Christ, the Messiah, the Lord of heaven and earth has just been accomplished and the whole world now recognizes this fact and marks the date of December 25th as Christmas!
However, Christmas as the 25th of December was not celebrated as that day until the 4th century A.D. The origin of the celebration is rooted in the heathen worship of the Babylonian's. The birth of the son of the queen of heaven was celebrated for centuries by the Babylonians on December 25th, long before Christ's birth, and the date was later adopted by the Catholic church at Rome in order to try to conciliate the heathen and bring them in to the 'church'. Even though the leaders of the true church attempted to keep the born-again believers from embracing the pagan celebration, eventually the pressures of this tradition took hold and Christmas, the 25th of December, was established even though it was obviously not the true date of the birth of Christ.
The text in Luke 2 also gives rise to suspicion as to the mid-winter date of December 25th. The shepherds were in fact living outdoors according to the word used in (v.8) for 'abiding in the field'. This word literally means 'to live outdoors' which would not have been the case at this time of year. Also, the journey made by Joseph and Mary surely would not have been attempted in the middle of winter for that time of year was not suitable for travel and the taxation census would not have required the people to do so. As to the severity of the winters in Israel, the Lord Himself said 'But pray that your flight be not in winter' (Matthew 24:20) indicating that travel during winter would not be desirable.
But, the date is really not the important issue. The fact that He was born of a virgin as prophesied by Isaiah, and lived a sinless life, and gave Himself a ransom for many, by shedding His blood and dying for the sins of the whole world, and then was resurrected from the dead, ascended to the Right Hand of the Father and now lives forevermore to make intercession for His own, yes, these are the important facts that can never be changed, for they are rooted and grounded in the eternal Word of God!
Have your received this Great Gift of God? Are you sure that if you died today you would go to heaven? You can be sure by praying and asking God to save you from the penalty of your sin by receiving the Lord Jesus as your Savior by faith and God will do what He has promised for He has said: 'Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved.'