Many if not most Christians understand that ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’, better known as, ‘Christmas.’ In fact, most of western civilization understands that the historical notion of Christmas is rooted by name and pictured in the nativity scene and the birth of Jesus Christ.
It’s the implications of that historical event though, that has driven so many millions of people over the past few centuries to thoughts and decorations of Santa Claus, yuletide carols, partridges and pear trees. After all, who wants to think about a baby born to die a sacrificial and horrific death as an adult to save sinners at this time of year?
But rather than focusing here in this post on the well-known reasons for a Christ-centered Christmas, I’ve been driven to reflect about how this great holiday and celebration again reflects the sovereignty of God, that great and comforting doctrine I’ve been exploring in a series of posts, echoing a preaching series we just completed at our church in South Florida.
You might have gathered from following this series, that I argued for, and am comforted by the fact that God is in authority and dominion over and in control of the outcome of all of human history and its future, covering every facet of life – not only over the nations – including this country’s election and COVID-19, but also Christmas. Indeed, I am comforted by the truth that nothing happens by random chance or coincidence in God’s world – Christmas
That truth in my view calls for the worship and praise of God and love of his Christ– at least from his church, from a sense of wonder of how precisely the Lord of the universe so carefully and meticulously planned and purposed or orchestrated this event to occur in precisely the manner it did, in order to fulfill his chosen nation’s promises while offering the hope of salvation to multitudes for ages to come. Now that’s a gift!
After all, many of us take the Christmas story (Luke 2:1-7) and its detail for granted without stopping to think how humanly impossible it should have been for it to have happened without direct and divine intervention.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth… (Micah 5:2-3; ESV)
Whether he has a willing and honorable or unwilling and dishonorable pot of human clay to work with (Romans 9), God brought together the details and all the components of the birth of the Messiah at just the right time and place even to the extent of moving the heart and mind of a pagan, godless Caesar who knew nothing about the Old Testament and its pointing to a coming Messiah and kingdom, by virtue of that ruler’s pseudo-sovereign decree.
That ruler was Caesar Augustus, who was worshiped as a god and as a deity, being totally ignorant of the one and only true God. According to both the biblical and extra-biblical, historical record, this ruler determined that a census needed to be taken at that time in the Roman Empire for largely tax purposes as our nation does every decade.
Thus, Joseph and his very pregnant wife Mary had to make a ninety-mile trek walking and riding a bumpy donkey over very rough terrain in the late fall or winter to meet the census deadline, perfectly fitting into the sovereign plan of God that they would be in Bethlehem when the Son of God would be born.
Note that Micah’s prophecy was 700 years before the Messiah’s first advent or arrival, which we know to be the eternal son of man because Micah 5:2 tells us, “His goings forth are from long ago from the days of eternity”, and that verse is affirmed by Matthew’s gospel as well.
How important was the timing then of that census and where it was to be taken? Well, had Caesar Augustus made his decree earlier or later and had Herod changed his own plans, the child would have been born in Nazareth and not have fulfilled yet another old covenant prophecy predicting the birth of Christ, by which we could also conclude that God doesn’t control the outcome of every circumstance.
But of course, all of those circumstances fit perfectly well with the prophetic voice of God’s word as the one who literally writes history as History. We know that to be true because to Bethlehem, that little, non-descript town, belonged the house and family of David.
Of course, those of us who have slogged through that long genealogy from the opening of Matthew’s gospel, find that both Joseph and Mary were descendants of Israel’s King David, carrying that royal and human ancestry to the baby Jesus, authenticating his right to rule as King to come from the tribe of Judah.
Furthermore, that same genealogy carries the name of pagan women in the lineage of the Christ, further lending credence to the reality that Jesus would be king of all- both Jew and Gentile. So, this teenage couple went down to register because they were supposed to – in the house of their ancestors.
And again, all of this serves to prove the perfect will and plan of God, who providentially got them to where and when they needed to be there for God-glorifying and mankind saving and blessing purposes. That’s yet another hidden gem we should uncover, thank God for and sing praises about, as we celebrate this Christmas… the sovereignty of God over this blessed birth.