Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,Luke 2:4(NASB)
Luke's record of John the Baptist stressed the importance of his name, while his account of Christ's birth paid particular attention to our Lord's place of birth and the political issues that caused Mary and Joseph to travel to their ancestral town. Their journey to Bethlehem was in response to an empire-wide decree from Caesar Augustus, to carry out a census of all Roman territories, "so that all the world could be taxed."
God moves in mysterious ways to perform His mighty deeds and fulfil His plans and purposes for the redemption of mankind, and this is clearly seen in the life of Jesus. Every detail of Christ's conception and birth appears to be rooted in problems and difficulties, far removed from the smooth, stress-free time one would expect for the arrival of the only begotten Son of God into the world... and yet every aspect of His first advent was planned from the foundation of the world, and every day of Christ's life was scheduled to carry out the will of the Father.
God took every obstacle that appeared to cast a shadow over the coming of the Lord Jesus as an opportunity to demonstrate His great wisdom and mighty power. Every stumbling-block that seemed to hinder the out-working of God's perfect plan became a spring-board which He used to establish His will for the redemption of mankind and the glory of His holy name.
Jesus had to be born in Bethlehem to fulfil Biblical prophecy, and so Israel's Roman overlords were moved, by God, to take a census of the population and commanded all the men, under Roman rule, to return to their ancestral city and register for the crippling taxes being imposed on Israel and other subdued nations. And so we read, "Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David."
Both Joseph and Mary were of the tribe of Judah and from David's lineage, and prophecy dictated that the Messiah would be born in the royal town of Bethlehem, some 90 miles south from the little town of Nazareth, where they resided.
Only the men were required to travel to their ancestral city for Caesar's census, and the long journey that Joseph undertook would have been difficult and dangerous for any pregnant woman, and yet Mary, who was "great with child," accompanied Joseph on the gruelling journey to Bethlehem. Why? Why did Mary not remain at home with the other women? Why did she not stay in Nazareth to have her baby delivered by the midwives there, while Joseph carried out Caesar's command?
Well... becoming pregnant before her marriage was consummated, must have resulted in much unpleasant social gossip, by friends and neighbours of the young couple who expressed their disapproval. Maybe this caused Joseph to take Mary with him to Bethlehem... to avoid her shame and embarrassment and to protect her from the condemnation of their neighbours. But God used it for good. Mary needed to be in Bethlehem to carry forward God's perfect plan and to fulfil Bible prophecy.
God was working His purpose out, for the Jewish Messiah must be born in His ancestral city - the city of David, as prophesied by Micah. And the Lord used Caesar’s mercenary decree and Mary's 'embarrassing' condition, to ensure that His only begotten Son was in the right place at the right time, so that He could be born in Bethlehem of Judea, "and thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel."
Every unfortunate happening was used by God to fulfil His greater plan and purpose for the redemption of mankind and to fulfil the prophetic Scriptures. Jesus was born into a poor family who were despised and ridiculed, so He could identify with those that were broken and sad, weak and alone. He moved the hearts of kings and shepherds and touched the lives of wise men and townsfolk, in order to fulfil that which was spoken of by prophets of old. Those that would believe on Him would receive life eternal but those who rejected Him would remain under eternal condemnation.
If God is able to so organise the landscape of Israel, move the heart of the great Caesar Augustus, and choose the right young couple to bring up His dearly beloved Son, is He not able to act in each of our lives? If the Holy Spirit is able to overshadow the womb of a virgin and cause her to conceive the Holy One of God, in order to fulfil mighty prophecies of old, is He not sufficiently able to order the lives of ALL His blood-bought children?
As we read through the familiar Nativity story that is celebrated year after year, and as we sing the lovely carols and choruses that tell of His birth, may we never cease to be filled with awe and wonder at God's amazing precision and perfect timing, as He worked in the geopolitical climate, the socio-economic landscape, and the lives of countless individuals and groups, to forward His plan of redemption for the greater glory of His name.
Heavenly Father, how I praise and thank You for Your amazing plan of redemption and the precision timing and interlinking events that caused the Lord Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, so that words that were spoken by prophets of old would be carried out for Your greater glory and the salvation of all who have trusted Christ for the forgiveness of sin and life everlasting. Open my eyes to see glorious things in your word so that the familiar story of Christ's birth in Bethlehem becomes increasingly thrilling to my soul, as I see Your supernatural hand working tirelessly in the natural world and spiritual sphere, to secure salvation for all who believe. Praise Your holy name, AMEN.