Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But he could have been born elsewhere. Mary was not a resident of Bethlehem, and neither was Joseph. The angel Gabriel did not give any instruction to Mary on where she was to be at the time of her baby’s delivery. The Bible does not inform us that Joseph and Mary had any intention to travel to Bethlehem, and we may assume that Jesus was well on his way to being born in Nazareth. But God had other plans, and he used an unexpected means to take the couple to Bethlehem.
In Luke’s account of the birth of Christ, he takes extra care to provide some insight into the political events that were occurring at the time. The Roman empire was the world power, and Emperor Caesar Augustus had given the decree for a census to be carried out in the entire empire. The census was probably intended to ensure that the annual tax to Rome was properly paid by all eligible persons. And for the Jews who were accustomed to paying their taxes to God, this exercise would not have been a pleasant affair.
Pregnant Mary and Joseph had to make the journey to Bethlehem because it was Joseph’s home town. The prophecies that had gone forth centuries before declared that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, and God had to orchestrate the events at the time to fulfill them. There was no way a single prophecy about the Messiah’s coming and life was going to go unfulfilled. So, the decree of an unrighteous man was God’s tool. And Caesar Augustus, unknown to himself, became God’s herald to call Mary to the place which God had appointed.
In the story of Christ’s birth, I am confronted with the Providence of God. I am reminded of the amazing truth that God guides his people and provides everything that they need. How amazing it is to consider that God really directs my steps and will ensure that everything in my life goes according to his plan.
Because his purpose cannot be thwarted, I can be assured that even the attacks and ill intentions of those whom I might call enemies are not powerful enough to cancel or modify his plan. They—like Caesar Augustus—are but servants and will be used to fulfill God’s plan.
As I celebrate Christmas and make preparations for the new year, I am reminded that God is working all things for my good and for his glory. If God is sovereign, then he is in control of everything. And his Providence assures me that he who is in control of all things works all things for the good of his people. I have no reason to fear the unknown. And if you are a child of God, neither do you.