Matthew R. Perry

Lessons from the Manger, Part I: God Controls the Direction of History for His Purposes (Luke 2:1-20)

In Christmas, Devotional on December 21, 2006 at 9:57 am

Do you ever feel as if life is simply a series of random events connected only by the fact that they are happening to you?

Do you ever entertain the idea that everyone else seems to control your life (government, boss, professors, parents, etc.) and that they seem to be so loud that God’s voice is completely drowned out?

Do you ever question your motivation for getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other each and every day?

These questions among many others haunt both Christian and non-Christian alike.   Many simply feel carried along by the current of their life and circumstances.  Some respond optimistically, others grow cynical and sarcastic at every turn thinking, “If my expectations of life and people are low, then I won’t be disappointed.”

Me suggesting that a lesson could be learned around a cattle trough may seem just this side of ridiculous.  Yet I believe the Christmas story as told by Dr. Luke in Luke 2:1-20 provides a much-needed remedy for those Christmas (year-long?) Blues.

1.     God controls the direction of history for his purposes (Luke 2:1-7).

As you read through this passage, you see that Caesar Augustus, who served from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. as Emperor of the Roman Empire, pronounced that every citizen needed to return to his hometown to be registered for taxation purposes.  While this came as a major inconvenience as well as poured more lemon juice on a sore spot of Roman tyranny, Luke reminds us that Mary is nine months along and could have her Son at anytime.  Yet, they made the long trek back to Bethlehem — not in a smooth-riding car or bus on smooth roads, but on the back of a donkey over rough terrain.  When they arrived, the time had come for Mary to give birth.  They had no room in the inn, so they went to a cattle trough.

They could have asked why!  The timing was terrible, the city was in an uproar, the inns were full, and the time had come — all collapsing on one thin slice of time.  They may have felt out of control:  they were under the control of Caesar’s whim, the innkeeper’s rules, and even had to rely on the ability of the donkey to stay straight and true.

Yet God is in total control of history.  He fulfilled the prophecy he uttered to Micah about the Christ being born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) and being born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:18-25).  God moved Caesar to issue that edict in order to continue God’s work of redemptive history.   God ordained the inn to be full so they could have the Child in the manger.  That way, the shepherds could approach the Child in their element and away from the ones who called them outcasts.

You may think, “I’m under everyone’s control.  I have to pay my taxes — if I don’t, I’m in jail.  I have to go to work — if I don’t, I’m fired and cannot provide for my family and will lose everything.  If I don’t do my homework, I’ll fail my class and the teacher won’t let me pass on to the next grade.”  Yet God is in control and places all these things in our lives for our good and for His glory.

(Tomorrow:  Part II — God conquers our peace through the Gospel, Luke 2:8-14).

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