And it came to pass in the fullness of time that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. Judea, being a province of the Roman Empire was pressed to respond to the mandate. So all went, as ordained, to be enrolled in the census; everyone to his own city, to the place of his birth, to be counted according to the will of Caesar.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, to the city of David, to Bethlehem, the house of bread as it was called. Bread made from the stalks of grain that sustain man from day to day, for without bread there is no life. So Joseph went because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
It was there in the city of Bethlehem, within the hills of Judea, that the Bread of Life should come forth, to provide salvation for a hungry world; the bread which came down from heaven, and gives life to the whole earth. For the world was hungry. He came to give us our daily bread, life giving nourishment for our soul. Bread broken for His people.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrata,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
~ Micah 5:2
So the prophet spoke, yet these two weary travelers, Joseph and Mary with him, had little thought that their very journey was in keeping with the scriptures; that in going forth to Bethlehem, they were in fact fulfilling what was foretold, that Bethlehem would be the birthplace of the Christ.
Bethlehem, a city bustling with people, travelers all, who like Joseph, had left hearth and home to venture forth to the land of their heritage. And like him, they crowded into the city already bursting with people, filling every inn, every home that could take them in, until at last, no more could be received. Evening had come upon them. Firelight illuminated the dwellings that lined the dusty streets. The smell of bread and roasted meat rose to inflame their empty stomachs, as Joseph and his betrothed, overwhelmed with weariness, searched in vain for a place to stay the night. “No room,” was the message at every door.
Exhausted, Mary struggled as the discomfort in her body grew, for the days were completed that she should be delivered. Though calm for the sake of his beloved, fear grew within the heart of Joseph as he, with desperate effort, attempted to provide for the safe delivery of mother and child.
Then, in mercy, an inn keeper’s wife, seeing the couple in their distress, took them to the stable, a place where the animals of travelers were kept. It was nothing more than a sheepfold, a stable of stone, a rock-cave carved into the side of a hill. But it was warm and dry and there was fresh straw.
So it was that Mary brought forth her firstborn Son, the hope and glory of all lands. Wrapping Him in swaddling clothes, she laid Him in a manger, a feeding trough of beasts. In this lowly estate, the King of kings, entered into the world, clothed in the raiment of humanity, born to wear not a gilded diadem, but a crown of thorns.