Yes, there are many reasons people relocate their residences. They move to be closer to their families. They move to take on a new employment opportunity. They move for a change of scenery. People move. People change. In the case of Joseph and Mary, they really had no choice. Based on an edict from the reigning Caesar (Augustus), Joseph and Mary walked the 70 miles or so from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be counted, and pay the census tax.
We’ve dreamed up a pretty good story, that makes for a great children’s tale, but perhaps a look at the facts will help us some here. The story of Jesus’ birth is told in Matthew’s and Luke’s gospel records. Neither of them mention where Jesus was born, just that it wasn’t in the Inn, because the owner didn’t have any more room. He wasn’t evil, he wasn’t being rude, he didn’t have a hidden agenda… there just wasn’t any more room.
Manger is the Greek word phatné (fat’-nay… φάτνη) and it translates into English, “feeding trough.” The fact is that these troughs are found anywhere animals are sheltered or kept. It could have been a stable, a lean-to, or a cave. The bible doesn’t say where Mary gave birth, only that she wrapped the baby Jesus up, and laid him to rest in a feed trough.
We like the image of the crèche we’ve grown comfortable with, including the different figurines in the story. However, the moment of Jesus birth is held as a very private matter and closely guarded secret. The Bible doesn’t describe hovering angels, stinky shepherds, or wise men in attendance. All those elements came afterward. The Bible doesn’t describe God’s voice from heaven. The Bible implies that it was Joseph, Mary, and the smelly, noisy animals holed up for the night, and a feed trough. In my mind, representing the most primitive conditions on earth for a young girl to give birth to the Savior of the world.
By the decree of the Emperor, Joseph and Mary left the comfort of their home in Nazareth, traveled 70 hard miles relocating in Bethlehem just in time to deliver the child. In Luke 9:58 it says, “The Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head...” This was never more true than at the moment of His birth, when Mary laid his head (body) in the smelly trough the animals ate out of.
Because… “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:6-7
Jesus relocated from Heaven to Earth, by way of Nazareth to Bethlehem, to accomplish a single task.
“By bearing our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” 1 Peter 2:24
We, through His great love and life, relocate from darkness to light, from death to life.
This is the Relocation story of Christmas.