At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. ~Luke 2:1-6
It’s that time of year again—the time of year when we unpack boxes of decorations and arrange them carefully throughout our home. It ’s the time of year when we put up a Christmas tree, begin to bake holiday goodies, wrap the gifts we have for our loved ones, and set up our Nativity scenes—again. It’s also the time of year when we sing our favorite Christmas carols and hear the story of Jesus’ birth—again. Isn’t it wonderful?
Every year, the church starts over and retells the story of Jesus’ life. We start in December with the story of Jesus’ birth, and follow His story throughout his ministry, as He makes his way toward the cross. And then on Easter, we celebrate as Jesus conquers death through His resurrection.
As I thought about the idea of starting the story over, it occurred to me that a few stories had to start over in order for the first Christmas to happen the way it did. Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds were given opportunities to start their stories over, and because they said yes, we have their amazing stories to share.
Mary was a young girl, engaged to be married, and probably filled with dreams of what her life with Joseph would be like. I imagine she looked forward to giving Joseph a house full of children, after they were married and settled. Instead, Mary was visited by an angel who told her she had been chosen to give birth to the Messiah, and she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Her first child would not be Joseph’s, and she would be accused of sleeping with someone other than her betrothed. In her day, such an act was punishable by stoning. This was not the story Mary had imagined, but she accepted God’s will for her life and started her story over.
Joseph was a well-respected and honorable man. He did his best to follow the Jewish laws and traditions. He was engaged to a lovely young girl, and was looking forward to taking her as his wife. But then she became pregnant with a child who was not his own. Joseph had decided to divorce Mary quietly, rather than have her humiliated or punished, but before he could do so, an angel appeared to him in a dream. The angel told Joseph that Mary’s child was from the Holy Spirit and would become the long-awaited Messiah. He told Joseph that he should not be afraid to marry her. This was not the story Joseph had imagined, but he was obedient to God and started his story over.
The shepherds were tending their sheep as they did every night. Shepherds were not ranked very high in society and they probably had no dreams of becoming important or special. I imagine they expected that night to be just like every other night of the year. And then something amazing happened. A multitude of angels appeared to them, not to royalty or wealthy merchants, but to the shepherds. The angels proclaimed the birth of the Messiah, and encouraged the shepherds to leave their fields and go to Bethlehem to see the new born king. These ordinary, lowly shepherds had been invited by the angels to meet Jesus. They accepted the invitation to meet Jesus and started their stories over.
We can start our stories over too. We have been invited into a relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ. He has given us opportunities to accept and follow God’s will for our lives. It’s not easy, and we will stumble many times along the way, but our Heavenly Father will be there to pick us up.
Let’s step out in obedience and see if we can give our stories a brand new start.
Be blessed my friends.
P. S. If you haven’t yet read the Christmas stories in the Bible this year, I hope you will take the time to do so.