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Advent: Day Fifteen

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.—Luke 2:1-6

Today, we light the third candle of Advent and begin to set our eyes toward the Nativity...the joy of all the world, wrapped up in swaddling clothes and lain in a manger. Such a humble setting! But the orchestration of events that went into the making of it was something only God could have arranged, and it serves as a profound proclamation of the beauty and grace of God’s sovereignty.

You see, years before Jesus was born, another little boy by the name of Gaius Octavius was born. Now Octavius’ great uncle was a very well-known man named Julius Caesar, who also happened to be the senior leader of the Roman Empire at the time. Interestingly, Julius Caesar showed a high interest in Octavius and eventually adopted him as a son, promising to one-day give the throne over to Octavius. One year later, Julius Caesar was murdered, and young Octavius reigned over the Roman Empire.

Octavius was a brilliant leader, and the Romans loved and respected him so much that they gave him two shocking titles: (1) Caesar Augustus—Augustus meaning “honored one”—and (2) the Savior of the World. Being a brilliant leader, Caesar Augustus loved systems and structures and eventually implemented massive registrations across the entire known world. These registrations would occur every fourteen years, primarily for taxing purposes.

What does all of this have to do with the birth of Jesus? Well, there happens to be a prophecy in Micah 5:2 that says the Messiah (Jesus) would be born in the city of Bethlehem. But there was one major problem: Joseph and Mary were living in Nazareth, and Mary was already nine months pregnant! So, how does God motivate Joseph and Mary to travel 90 miles to Bethlehem? He uses the most powerful man on the planet—Caesar Augustus—as a pawn in His glorious plan of redemption. The one who was called “the savior of the world” sent out a decree that forced Joseph and a very pregnant Mary to travel to Bethlehem so that the real Savior of the World could be born.

Though Mary must have been incredibly uncomfortable and nervous, and the 90-mile journey must have been beyond difficult, God was actually working in and through the entire situation to bring about His plan of redemption. Although we often don’t realize it, this story is proclaiming the beauty and grace of God’s sovereign care over every difficult and seemingly random detail in our lives.

Meditation: As Christmas approaches, think of all the difficult and hard-to-understand situations you or those you love are experiencing. Meditate on this profound story and remember that God loves and cares for you just as He did for Joseph and Mary 2,000 years ago. Meditate on the reality that God is at work in you, through you, and around you in ways that you do not always see or feel. Let the events surrounding the birth of Jesus cause you to realize that God is intimately connected to every detail of your life.

Prayer: Father God, I’m thankful that there is not a single molecule swirling around in existence that is outside your intimate care. Thank You for working all things together for my good. Help me to rest in you, even in the midst of painful situations. Help me not to look at the events around me for comfort, but to you, instead. Help me to trust you more deeply. Amen.