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.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.~ Luke 2:1-20
The Christmas story is so familiar to us, the familiarity can sometimes dull the meaning and impact for us. We may not recognize how God orchestrated everything perfectly. Caesar Augustus probably thought it was his idea to have a census, but he didn’t come up with it on his own—God gave him the plan. There was no room in the inn, because God wanted His Son to be born in a very specific place. The angels didn’t appear to random shepherds; they appeared to the shepherds who raised the sacrificial lambs for the Temple. The sign, especially given for those shepherds, led them to that particular place—the Tower of the Flock, the birthing room for the lambs for sacrifice. Immediately after birth, the tiny lambs were wrapped tightly in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger so they were not hurt themselves. Lambs for sacrifice in the Temple had to be blemish-free so this cave was set up to keep the newborn lambs that way. Jesus was the one-time, perfect, blemish-free sacrifice. Animal sacrifice had to be repeated over and over again, needing an endless supply of perfect lambs. Jesus’s sacrifice was once for all; no one or nothing else was ever needed again.
Father God, thank You for sending Jesus to be our permanent, forever sacrifice to take away the sins of the world. In His name. Amen.