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December 25

Scripture Reading

Luke 2:1-7

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.

Micah 5:2

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.


Joseph and Mary came to Bethlehem in accordance with the census. If it were not for the census, Jesus would have been born in Nazareth. But the census happened at the right time and Joseph and Mary found themselves in Bethlehem. What would cause a first-time mother to leave her family and go to a foreign place at the time of her delivery? An edict from the authorities. What would cause a secular Roman authority to pronounce an edict that would fulfill a 500-year-old prophecy? The sovereignty of God.

They come to Bethlehem well in time before the delivery of the baby. (‘And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth,’ 2:6). So it is not that they came to Bethlehem on the night of the birth and couldn’t find lodging.

The word ‘inn’ is probably better translated as "guest room." (See Luke 22:11, 9:12, 19:7 where it means “guest.” Also, in Luke 10:34 an inn is clearly implied, but a different word is used). It is unlikely that there were any commercial inns in Bethlehem since the town was not on any major roads at that time.

In Near Eastern homes, the family and animals slept in an enclosed space with the animals on the lower level. Mary and Joseph were likely guests of family or friends, but at that time the home was so crowded that when the baby was born, he had to be placed in a feeding trough (manger). Jesus in a manger was the sign for the shepherds who came to see Jesus later on.

And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. Luke 2:12

I wonder if the angels who saw the glorious, powerful, pre-existent Jesus and then saw him lying helpless in the manger were shocked at the discrepancy. Even as they announce the birth to the shepherds their minds must be reeling at the transformation. This is the irony of the sign. The Saviour-Lord-Messiah will be in a manger, nursed in swaddling clothes. The contrast between the lowly manger and the person occupying it is stunning.

But the laying in the manger is parallel to another critical event, one that occurred 33 years later.

Luke 2:7 – wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger Luke 23:53 - wrapped (the body) in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb.

These two events bookend the earthly life of Jesus. The birth of Jesus and the death of Jesus are inextricably intertwined and the birth of Jesus inevitably points to his death. Even the cave where he was born looks like a tomb today.


(picture of the Bethlehem cave where Jesus was born taken on February 20, 2023)

Two thousand years ago, the baby in the manger was a sign for the simple shepherds that the Messiah was born. This Christmas season we have been given plenty of signs to believe in the One who once occupied the manger and once occupied the tomb.

Feliz NavidadAndrea Bocelli/Matteo Bocelli/Virginia Bocelli


Song: Noel, Lauren Daigle.

Song: Feliz Navidad, Andrea Bocelli, Matteo Bocelli, Virginia Bocelli

Picture of Bethlehem Cave taken on February 20, 2023

Scripture quotations are from the ESV®Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright© 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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