Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Christmas Commands

A couple of Decembers ago I had the opportunity to write devotionals once a week for the local newspaper in Park Rapids, MN. I wrote about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. Since they were already written, I figured I would share them here as well for anyone interested.

Most of us are probably familiar with the Christmas story, but I want to examine the story a little more closely and pull out a few key points. In Luke 1:26-38 we read about Mary being visited by an angel of the Lord and being told who her Son will be. She is confused and has questions, as any of us would, but she responds in such a beautiful way I pray we can all emulate. Mary says to the angel, “Let it be to me according to your word.” May we all respond to the commands and words of the Lord in a similar fashion!

In Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, Luke mentions there being a decree or command by the political leader Caesar Augustus. This command forced Joseph and his soon to be wife, Mary, to go to his hometown to be taxed. (Luke 2:1-5) This would have been a several day walk for Joseph and ride by donkey for Mary. All while Mary is VERY pregnant. I can’t imagine how difficult and uncomfortable of a journey this would have been for the couple! Unfortunately, disobedience to the Roman Empire would have been even more difficult.

photo courtesy of

Conquering nations in the ancient world worked in various ways. Some brutally destroyed and plundered, some conquered people as slaves, others allowed the people to remain in their land and work as before, but with one major change: the conquered people had to pay taxes to their rulers.

In addition to the political and physical adversity Joseph and Mary faced, there were also cultural and religious complications. Mary was pregnant by someone other than Joseph, and this would have been difficult to deal with and explain. Joseph had the right to divorce Mary and probably would have if he had not received a visitation from an angel of the Lord. (Matthew 1:18-25) The angel let Joseph know Mary’s virgin birth story was true.

Joseph had to face the awkwardness of relatives and friends knowing his wife was pregnant by someone other than him. I believe this is the reason they didn’t find anywhere to stay while in Bethlehem and were forced to sleep with livestock in a stable. (Luke 2:6-7) While completing their civic duty in Joseph’s hometown of Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus, all while receiving no help or support from their extended family. The next post will be about the communication of the birth of Jesus.

The time is now; shake the earth!

- Joel

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