Christmas Devotional | Day 18
December 18, 2017
Monday, Dec. 18, 2017 | O Little Town of Bethlehem
God orchestrated events so that the birth of Christ would take place in Bethlehem in fulfillment of Scripture.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
God is always at work in the world, even when we don't realize it. In today's passage, Joseph and Mary are forced to comply with a decree from Caesar. The "entire world" was being taxed (which was the primary purpose of a "registration"), and this required the couple to return to Joseph's hometown of Bethlehem.
At first glance, Caesar's decree may sound completely unrelated to God's redemptive purposes. However, Joseph and Mary's trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem was anything but random-it was by divine design. Centuries earlier, the Old Testament prophet Micah had declared,
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. (Micah 5:2, emphasis added)
Micah's prediction of a ruler from Bethlehem was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. And God used the decree of Caesar, a pagan, unbelieving ruler, to carry out His plan. It's no coincidence that Mary's time to give birth came while she was in Bethlehem, nor is it a coincidence that Jesus was born in the city of David. Unbeknownst to most of the world, the promised King from David's line (2 Samuel 7:12-13; Matthew 1:1), the Lord of heaven and earth, was wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a feeding trough.
God had promised long ago through a prophet named Micah that a ruler would come from Bethlehem. In order to carry out this plan, God used an order from Caesar that required people to return to their hometown. Since Bethlehem was Joseph's hometown, he and Mary went there, and it was in Bethlehem that Mary gave birth to Jesus. This was the most important birth in the history of the world, but it wouldn't have looked that way to those who saw it. Jesus was lying where the animals ate-in a manger-because there was no room for him in the inn.
Many circumstances and events are completely out of our control. How does today's passage help you trust God's providence and His promises of redemption in light of this reality?
For Kids: How do we know that God is in control of all things if we can't see Him? (We trust the promises of His Word.)
Ask God to strengthen your faith in His promises and in His providence when you are anxious or when you face opposition for your faith.
For Further Reading
Read more in Matthew 2:1-23 about the promises fulfilled in the birth of Jesus.
"But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities . . ."
Practical Response - Pray for the Persecuted
In addition to praying for the unreached, we should also remember to pray for brothers and sisters in Christ who are facing opposition for their faith. Pray that God would sustain their faith and empower their witness to Christ. For more on the persecution of Christians across the world, visit opendoorsusa.org.
Devotional credit: Radical, Inc.