Joseph, when visited by an angel, heard the angel say, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20 New American Standard Bible NASB). And so, just as Mary had done, Joseph accepted the miraculous circumstances, instead of breaking his engagement to his first love, Mary, the virgin. He took upon himself full responsibility for Mary and her unborn child, conceived by the Holy Spirit, the one and only Son of God. As a member of the house of David, when the time came for a census, Joseph traveled from Galilee to the city of David, known as Bethlehem. He married Mary, taking her with him to register in the census. Lest we get confused — although Joseph and Mary were married, they had not consummated the marriage, which is why Luke’s passage about Jesus’ birth reads, “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, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child” (Luke 2:4-5 NASB).
Women, try to picture yourself — 9 months pregnant, sitting on a donkey, and traveling 70 miles for at least two-and-one half days. Well, having had four children at full term, I cannot picture it, nor can I imagine what it must have felt like. Did they take any rest periods, or “drive” straight through? Was Mary able to get down from the donkey and rest? The soreness in her entire body must have been horrible. If Joseph and Mary rested overnight, they probably had to sleep on the ground, and when she climbed back up on the bony back of the donkey the next day, was her pain even more because she had rested?
Well, Joseph and Mary had no choice. The decree required them to make this trip to Bethlehem to register for the purpose of taxation. More importantly, long before the birth of Jesus, Bethlehem was going to be the city in which Jesus would be born. God had predetermined Bethlehem as the place in which his one and only Son would give up all of his glory and be born as a God-baby, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and birthed by none other than the virgin, Mary.
Nevertheless, I wonder if the trip is what brought about her labor. I wouldn’t be surprised. Still, when I think of God’s brilliance, and the way in which he brings all things together for his purposes, I think the timing of the census, which brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, and the birth of Jesus coming about at the same time was not a coincidence. Think about it — if Joseph had not had a reason, such as the census to go to Bethlehem, more than likely he would have stayed in Galilee. God wanted Jesus born in Bethlehem.
Luke tells us, “While they (Mary and Joseph) were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (vs. 6-7).
There was no room in the inn… of course not; the people coming for the census had already filled up the inn. Why would God allow his one and only Son to be born in a manger? Why weren’t there any midwives mentioned to assist in the birth? Luke doesn’t mention any. Why? Why? Why?
The birth of Jesus was a personal, predetermined event. Jesus was not born as a warrior king in a palace filled with riches. He was born as a servant; God’s servant to a fallen world.
Therefore, let us “have joy and gladness, … [so that] many will rejoice at his birth” (Luke 1:14 NASB).
Do you rejoice at his birth on Christmas day?