January 22, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. . . . So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.”—Luke 2:1–6 (NKJV)
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, 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, from everlasting.”—Micah 5:2 (NKJV)
Raise your hand if you feel like life is spinning out of control. It’s more than understandable if your hand went up or if you thought about raising it. And if you didn’t, maybe reread this a few days from now.
Let’s just be real for a moment: Our world, in general, seems to be growing more and more unstable. In the past couple of years, we’ve experienced things most of us never thought we would. The fragility of life has been exposed, and here’s something you won’t hear advertised . . . this time of year can really add to the sense of not being in control.
If this sounds a bit, “bah humbug,” hang in there! We’re going to see something from God’s Word about Christmas that can transform our understanding of “control,” which will replace our pressure with peace. And when is this more needed than right now?
The first thing we need to see is given to us in today’s passage from Luke’s Gospel. There, we’re told that Caesar Augustus, ruler of the Roman Empire, decided that everyone under his authority was to be registered. In other words, the whole Roman Empire was to participate in a census, including the region of Judah which is modern-day Israel.
It may not seem like much at first, but each man had to be counted in his hometown. For those who had moved, like Joseph who had relocated from Bethlehem to Nazareth, this meant they had to travel back to where they were from. Roman rule was resented by the Jewish people to begin with, but even more so now that they were being forced to make a journey for the sake of a census that would probably lead to more taxes.
Wait, there’s more! Joseph’s wife, Mary, was nearing the end of her first pregnancy. If there was ever an inconvenient time for her to travel, it was then, right when Caesar decided to do this! If I’m Joseph and Mary, all the way to Bethlehem I’m asking, “Why did this have to happen now? Why couldn’t this have been a month sooner or later? Why us? Why me?” Any sense of control they may have had was slipping through their frustrated fingers like the sand beneath their feet. This is where many (if not most) of us can relate to the Christmas story.
But the second half of this story comes to us from a prophecy given about seven centuries before Caesar’s census. It comes from a man named Micah, who was inspired by God to foretell the birthplace of the promised Messiah who would deliver His people. That birthplace was to be Bethlehem, the same Bethlehem that Joseph and Mary were trudging towards.
From their perspective, they were being compelled by Roman edict. But Micah’s prophecy reveals a greater power, authority, and control was really at work. God was the One moving Joseph, Mary, and the One in her womb to the town of Bethlehem all for the purpose of fulfilling the centuries old prophecy validating the identity of the Messiah!
Oftentimes, life feels like it’s spinning out of control. Especially this time of year, we find ourselves wandering from one unexpected thing to the next. But remember the second half of the story—the half that tells us while we’re not in control, God is. And when we understand that the One who controls all things is also the One who loves us more deeply than we can fully fathom in this lifetime, it brings us to a place of peace as we rest in Him.
Pause: How do these two passages relate to what we might be experiencing this season?
Practice: Consider how Micah’s prophecy can help you in times when you feel your life is out of control.
Pray: Father, I confess I’m a creature who craves control. But in Your great wisdom, You’ve determined that You are the One who controls all things. Help me to remember and to trust that when circumstances tempt me to think and feel otherwise. May I always find my rest in You being in control. Amen.
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.