The text before us references a decree made by Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. Cyrenius was governor of Syria when this taxing took place. The Holy Spirit moved Luke to write what he wrote such that we might believe with confidence that Jesus is the promised Messiah (Lk. 1:4).
At the time in which Luke wrote, there would have been many who, like Joseph and Mary, undertook long journeys to comply with the decree. Luke’s account of Christ’s birth would not have made reference to this disruption of lives unless it was commonly known.
The prophet Micah prophesied seven hundred years earlier that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. God spoke to both Joseph and Mary through the angel Gabriel. God could have directly instructed them to go to Bethlehem. Instead, God moved the heart of Caesar to issue a decree which required them to journey there. God, not men, chooses the manner in which His prophecies shall be realized. In this instance, God moved the emperor of the Roman Empire to issue an order which would result in the literal fulfillment of His word.
The Savior was wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. There is no scripture given by any prophet which would have required that Jesus be born in a stable. Isaiah stated that there would be nothing special about the Messiah that would attract men to Him (Isa. 53:2). Birth in a stable qualifies to the lowly state of the Lord’s birth.
The appearance of the angel of the Lord to the shepherds is significant. Search the Bible. The appearances of angels before men is an uncommon event. The angel’s message was “Fear not: for, behold, I bring good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” The shepherds were told that they would find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.
The angelic host appeared and proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Two thousand years have passed and some men ask where is this peace. Either the peace has never come or it was so fleeting that no one noticed.
What is the explanation of this peace that seems to have escaped us? The physical peace and glory of which the angel speaks is promised by the prophet Isaiah. This shall be when the Messiah rules for one thousand years from the throne of David as the king of kings. This fact is revealed to us in the 20th chapter of the Revelation.
Knowledge of something which is two thousand years in the future hardly lends itself to establishing the certainty of things most certainly believed. But there is a peace and a glory which has reigned within men from the cross onward. This peace and glory is unknown to them who are without Christ. Men without knowledge of God struggle. Some struggle hoping that their efforts will result in pleasantness in the afterlife. Others, frustrated with failure, struggle hoping that they shall find mercy. Still others live without thought for the hereafter hoping that the present accounts for all existence. All men without Christ struggle.
Men of the first century and men of today who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior have a spiritual peace. That peace came when they gave up all hope based upon their own works and placed their trust in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every born again heart experiences joy and glory with the reunification of each lost soul with God. This is the glory to God and peace on earth and good will toward men which the angelic host proclaimed. The angelic message to the shepherds also affirms that the Savior was born in Bethlehem.
The shepherds acted upon the words of the angel; they came and they found Mary and Joseph and the babe in swaddling clothes in the manger. And having witnessed it, they made it known that the angel had appeared to them and that the Savior had been born.
The birth of Jesus was good news for them in Judea who waited upon God and it is good news today for all who will believe that Jesus paid their sin debt.
The Holy Spirit moved Luke to record the Lord’s birth such that we may know with certainty that Christ Jesus is the Promised One. All who know Him are called to proclaim that certainty to all men in every season.