And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (Luke 2:1 KJV)
There is so much information here in this one verse. all the world. Of course it was not all of the earth that was to be taxed, just every family that was ruled by Rome. The world as it was known to Roman subjects. Detractors point to this verse and snicker at inspiration. Surely the inspired word would know better.
Luke takes time to tell us when this was done, and who was involved.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. (Luke 2:2-3 KJV)
Christians look at this verse and see the hand of God at work in a secular world that ignored Him. The result of this decree moved a small family from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. (Luke 2:4-5 KJV)
A distance of over seventy miles, it could have been traveled in four days. We would expect that the family joined up with a caravan, the usual mode of travel for safety’s sake, and may have moved a bit more slowly, taking up to a week. However it was, I cannot imagine it a comfortable trip for a woman about to give birth.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7 KJV)
Thus far Luke has painted a picture that has an emperor moving people about for his own purposes. Yet centuries before a prophet foretold a Bethlehem birth. Now we come to the Who, given to shepherds.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:8-11 KJV)
The Why is the most important of all -- more important than the birth of a savior for all of mankind. All ask the question “Why?”, some without ever accepting the answer though it is laid out before us.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2:14 KJV)
All of this, for the glory of God.
Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25 KJV)
("Joseph and Mary Travel to the Census" by William Hole,
from “The Life of Jesus of Nazareth Portrayed in Colours.’
London: Eyre & Spottiswoode.)