Find the Emperor: Dec. 10
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to 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, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-7
Caesar Augustus was the emperor. He controlled the most powerful army in the Mediterranean world. Countries, citizens, and conquered lands submitted to his rule, and those that did not were crushed under his power. Presumably his decision to order the people of Judea to return to their ancestral towns for a census was a means of communicating his power—perhaps for the purpose of calculating the population under his control, perhaps for tax purposes. In any case, Luke invites us to see beyond all of the dignity and power of the mighty Roman emperor and to notice one simple, stubborn truth.
The Messiah was born in Bethlehem, the city of David, where God wanted Him to be born. Though Caesar was flexing his political muscles, he was simply doing the bidding of God’s sovereign plan. And though all of the world knew Caesar to be supreme in power and prestige, the real emperor of the world, the One who ordered history, was about to enter the world as a child precisely where He wanted to.
If this passage were a game of “who is the emperor,” the right answer is that the real Emperor, the One who orders all of history, revealed Himself in a feeding trough for animals in the town of David. And so the irony of ironies begins. The one with apparent power is just the servant of the One who seems all weakness. The one with all the apparent prestige is the one doing the bidding of the One who appears as an outcast.
This irony will not end until the cross—when the man who dies in weakness is actually the conquering King.