by Rev. John H. Farmer
History and the Bible told Me So…
Over 2,000 years ago the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus (63 BC, Rome, died 14 AD, Nola, Italy) issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place while Publius Sulpicius Quirinius [c. 51 BC – AD 21] East, a Roman aristocrat, was governor of Syria. So, everyone went to their home town to register.
Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him. She was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born. Mary gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, in a stable, because there was no room for them in the inn.
There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So, they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger. After they’d seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary took measure of all these things. They warmed her heart. She was amazed, if not overwhelmed.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Eight days later he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.
Some while after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea wise men from the East came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
King Herod ruled over the Jews in Israel in the time before Christ though he was not completely Jewish. He was born in 73 B.C. to an Idumean man named Antipater and a woman named Cyprus, who was the daughter of an Arab sheik. Herod was a schemer who took advantage of Roman political unrest to claw his way to the top, so when he heard about the baby he was disturbed and all Jerusalem with him. He called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law. He asked them where the Christ was to be born.
“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”
Then Herod secretly called aside the wise men and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
On coming to the stable, they saw the child with his mother Mary and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by a different route.
Well, it happened a long time ago. The message of the story, however, has present and future implications. Grab some lad or lass running through your house this Christmas. Plop them on your lap and read the story to them. Hug them real tight and wish them a Merry Christmas.