Advent: The Fulfillment

The Birth of Jesus

“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:1-7 NRSV)

Our text, Luke 2, verses 1-20 has three divisions. Verses 1-7 explain the occasion for Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, and especially for the circumstances accompanying his birth, namely his being wrapped in strips of cloth and being placed in a cattle feeding trough. Verses 8-14 describe the angelic visitation to the shepherds as the occasion for the visit of the shepherds to the birth site. Verses 15-20 report the shepherd’s visitation and their testimony after having seen the Savior.

The Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (2:1-7)

Luke takes up the account of the birth of Jesus with a report of the conditions into which God’s Messiah was born, and the human reasons for them. In these first 7 verses, we read that the Son of God is covered with rags and placed in some cattle feeding trough! How inappropriate, we might protest. How tragic! This might be so, apart from the “other side of the news,” which is found in verses 8-20. The very circumstances which seem to be pathetic, so sad, are those which prove to be most significant.  Jesus would be born to save humanity no matter the circumstances or conditions!.

In verses 1-3 Caesar had proclaimed a decree, which required a census, undoubtedly in preparation for a later taxation. Registering for this census must have been a very painful act, not only because doing so was inconvenient, but because it was a reminder that while God’s people, Israel, were in the land of promise, they were not free; they were under the rule of a pagan power. A Roman law, made by a pagan leader, compelled the Israelites to comply.

Luke’s purpose, however, is not to emphasize the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, as Matthew would do, for his gospel is written to Gentiles, who are probably not familiar with the prophecies of the Old Testament. Luke’s purpose is to show the humble circumstances of the Messiah’s birth. Thus, Luke informs us that Joseph and Mary made their way to Bethlehem, which would have been at least a three-day journey of more than 60 miles. The journey was not an easy one, especially for a pregnant woman,

But baby Jesus would be born in Bethlehem and not Nazareth, because it was “The Fulfillment” of the prophecy found in Micah 5:2. And thus it was so!