In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. 2 This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.

4 Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, 5 to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
— Luke 2:1-7

Sunday, December 10


Scripture Reading: Luke 2:1–7

Many of us read this passage every Christmas. Some may have seen it acted out in a live nativity scene with adults or, even more entertaining, with young children playing the parts. Just like some of the most well-known passages (like John 3:16), it can almost become something we read or even memorize for the sake of tradition but no longer allow its significance to weigh on our minds.

Think about the town where you were born. For some of you, it would be right here in Tallahassee, but for many of you, it could be miles. Imagine being required to drop everything you are doing and instructed to go back to your birthplace. How would it affect your daily routine? Would your kids have to be taken out of school? How many days of work would you miss and what would that mean to your finances?

Joseph and Mary were required to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a journey of 80–120 miles, depending on the route. They weren’t driving on interstates either. They were either walking or riding on the back of a donkey, requiring a journey of between four and eight days but probably even longer with a very pregnant Mary! Not only was this journey inconvenient for them but also both uncomfortable and dangerous.

 Think about your own birth story or those of your children. Every birth story is unique with some more dramatic than others. Imagine having traveled some 100 miles on foot while pregnant or with a very pregnant woman and just as you arrive at your destination, you find there is nowhere to stay! We often have the idea of a Holiday Inn Express or maybe even a Motel 6 that has no vacancy because many translations indicate that there was no room in the inn. Instead, most “hotel” accommodations were guest rooms in homes and they were most likely already being used because of the census that brought many people into this small town.

What we read in Luke 2 is that Mary gave birth to Jesus and laid Him in a manger. A manger just happens to be a feeding trough for animals. In other words, Mary and Joseph most likely found shelter in a cave in the Bethlehem area where animals were kept and that is where Mary delivered her baby, laying Him not in a soft, warm and comfortable bassinet but in a feeding trough for farm animals. The Son of God who was sent to be our Savior was not born in a king’s palace but in a barnyard. Joseph and Mary were not surrounded by the best doctors in a large city but Joseph probably had to deliver the baby Jesus himself. What humble beginnings for our God in the flesh (the very meaning of “incarnation”)!

Thinking through these details of what Mary and Joseph went through during the time of Jesus’ birth should make us more appreciative of the Christmas story that is often romanticized. Our God loves us so much that He sent His only Son down to earth through humble circumstances to live a life that met God’s standard of perfection. And as God’s righteous and holy Son, He could be the ultimate sacrifice for us, dying the death we deserved. “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). When Jesus returns, it will not be as a babe in a lowly manger but as a reigning king in power and glory (Rev 19:11–16).


Reflection Questions:                                                     

  1. How do these new details of The Christmas Story compare with your previous impression?
  2. Why was it necessary for God to send His only Son to live a human life?
  3. What is the real significance of the The Christmas story?


Listen to the song “Away in a Manger”


Advent Activity:

Find the movie “The Nativity Story” and watch it together as a family tonight. Although not 100% accurate, it is bible-based and gives an idea of the journey that Mary and Joseph made from Nazareth to Bethlehem and the conditions surrounding them in the place where Jesus was born.