Categories: Jesus' Birth
- During the Roman Empire, censuses were taken for assessing taxes and drafting men into the military. Since the Jews were exempt from serving, the only reason for Joseph's trip to Bethlehem was for taxation. He was required to go to the town of his birth. A census was held every 14 years.
- Joseph and Mary walked about 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
- There are many reports about where Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem. Some researches suggest that there were a "series of stalls opening off a common courtyard. Travellers brought their own food; all that the innkeeper provided was fodder for the animals and a fire to cook." [Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Luke p.21] This is where Mary was to give birth. Still other researchers suggest that the word "inn" was the same word used in that day to indicate an upper room. Since there wasn't space in the upper room, the area underneath the upper room was where the animals were kept. Mary and Joseph found room with the animals.
- The manger was a feed box in which a newborn lamb was placed to keep it warm.
- Swaddling clothes were "squares of cloth with a long bandage-like strip coming diagonally off from one corner. The child was first wrapped in the square of cloth and then the long strip was wound round and round about him." [Barclay, p. 21]
- It was customary for friends and family to stand outside the dwelling and wait to hear if the baby was a boy or girl. If the mother delivered a girl, no one said a word, and they left quietly. A boy, on the other hand, was occasion for music. They played instruments and sang. The angel choir was in full force to herald Jesus arrival.
- It is reported that the shepherds were the first to receive the birth announcement. These shepherds may have been the suppliers of the unblemished lambs offered at the Temple in Bethlehem. They would be eager to see the Lamb of God (as Jesus was later called).
- Some say the Star was the conjunction of the planets of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation of Pisces. This phenomenon takes place only once in 800 years. However there is reason to believe it took place three times in one year, May, October, and December; two years before the birth of Jesus. This conjunction of planets presented the most brilliant spectacle in the night-sky. The following year, Mars joined this display. [Edersheim, p. 212] This similar formation was visible in our skies this past May.
- Edersheim presents an interesting thought, that Herod knew all about scriptural prophecy and secretly sent for the Astrologers, wise men, to help him in locating the whereabouts of the Messiah.
- Some researchers indicate that the wise men didn't arrive until Jesus was about two years old. This would coincide with the edict from Herod to kill all the boy babies under two years of age. The Bible speaks of the wise men presenting their gifts to the "child," not the "babe."
- If Jesus was a child of two years, this would indicate that Mary and Joseph had settled in the Bethlehem community. Some say Joseph had no intention of returning to Nazareth of Galilee. He needed a little push from Herod and the angels to go to Egypt and then return to Nazareth to fulfill prophecy. Matt 2:23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
- Jesus had already been presented in the Temple, before the wise men arrived. This is further proof that the wise men weren't there the night Jesus was born.
- Wise men came from the East. Some scholars say they were either from Persia, Arabia, or Yemen. They may have been the first Gentiles to recognize the Christ child. There is on the other hand, reason to believe there were Jews who did live in Yemen at that time.
- The notion that there were three wise men, astrologers, or Magi comes from the presentation of three gifts. Some researchers contend that it was a particularly large group (dozens of wise men) traveling with their entourage of servants and guards.
- The presents weren't your average baby gifts. Gold was for royalty from royalty. This is where we get "We Three Kings from Orient Are." The incense and myrrh would appear inappropriate. But these offerings were examples of products from their countries, expressing homage to the country of the new-born King. Edersheim contends the gold was emblematic of Jesus' Royalty; the myrrh, of Jesus' Humanity; and the frankincense of Jesus' Divinity. Silverthorne mentions that these gifts provided the family an income while they were in Egypt.
- Herod was devious and jealous. He didn't want anyone to rival his authority. He wasn't well liked. On his death bed, he imprisoned the most prominent citizens with orders to kill them after he died, so the country would truly mourn. You can see not only why Joseph would flee, but also why he would not return to Bethlehem.
- Some of the Nativity symbols point to statements Jesus made about himself:
- Star: Light John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
- Bethlehem meant "house of bread:" John 6:35 -- And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
- Shepherd: John 10:11 I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
- Shepherds tend sheep: Jesus' cousin, John the Baptist, called Jesus the Lamb of God. John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
- Search for other symbols as you study the Nativity story.