It can be summed up into one simple truth – God fulfills his promises! Even if many of us doubt it, or refuse to believe it, or even if we are not even aware of it, or simply don’t care. From the beginning of time or even before it, God says and it will come to pass. All that God promised, or will promise, will be fulfilled. Even Christmas … especially Christmas.
Why did Joseph and Mary travel all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem when she was nine months pregnant. We all know how delicate the ninth month is. Nowadays, airlines won’t even let you board a flight, how much more travelling what, around 110 kilometers by foot or astride a donkey, over rocky paths across the country. And that’s a straight-line distance, it’s probably farther if they followed the river.
image lifted from www.travelingthruthebibleshow.com
We are told that Joseph and Mary have to go to Bethlehem to register for the census decreed by Ceasar Augustus, the Roman emperor at that time. For taxation purposes. But in the case of Israel at that time, the census is done using the Jewish way, as established by Moses more than a thousand years before that. Each Israelite has to register in his/her own tribe, in his/her own hometown. While they live in Nazareth, which is probably located in the tribe of Zebulun, Joseph and Mary and are from the tribe of Judah, their ancestors from Bethlehem. In fact, Mary did take the same trip 9 months back when she visited her cousin Elizabeth and her husband, Zacharias, who served as a priest in the temple in Jerusalem. Only this time, she arrived with Joseph in Bethlehem 9 month pregnant, and, after the days were completed for her to give birth, Jesus was born.
Why the arduous journey? Because Ceasar Augustus decreed the census? But why did he issue that order? And at that particular time? Did he just think of it, then? Around 700 years prior to Jesus’ birth, our Lord God, through the prophet Micah, promised “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.”(Micah 5:2). God promised that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. He said it and it came to pass – He who existed even before eternity was born in Bethlehem, Jesus Christ our Lord.
image lifted from www.drivethruhistory.com
God has made a lot of promises for us in the Scriptures, and He has plans for us “plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give us a future and a hope.”(Jeremiah 29:11). The Christmas narrative gives us a very comforting assurance – that God always fulfills his promises, as we follow his will in faith and obedience. Nothing happens by chance, not even such a thing as a census! A Roman emperor ordered it because God willed it to be.
May the Lord bless you this Christmas. May we all rejoice in the celebration of the birth of Jesus. And may we all trust God for the expectations of a New Year.