Modern couples go all out to prepare for the birth of their children – doctor visits, parenting classes, gender reveal parties and decorated nurseries. Sometimes even the best of preparations get interrupted by unexpected challenges during pregnancies. Joseph and Mary undoubtedly had been through so much preparing for the birth of their first child (angelic visits, sleepless nights, and ridicule from those who didn’t believe their story). As such, a birth at home in Nazareth would have been nice.
But a Roman census would make them journey over 80 miles in the later days of Mary’s pregnancy to the city of David, Bethlehem, because Joseph was a descendant of David. Plus, Jesus’ birth would need to take place there in order to fulfill the prophecy delivered about the Messiah’s birthplace given centuries before (Micah 5:2).
Jesus’ birth was so humble, prompted primarily because there was no room in the inn (v. 7). The city was so crowded that there was no room for the arrival of Jesus. I wonder how many of our lives are like that – schedules so overcrowded that we haven’t left any room for Jesus. What about you – do you need to say no to some stuff so you can say yes to Jesus?
God could have chosen any type of person in the world to receive the angelic announcement and to be the first visitors and witnesses of the Savior of the world. Why the shepherds? Here are three possible reasons: 1) to communicate that Jesus is for everyone (hardworking, simple, often overlooked people as well as the educated and privileged), 2) to connect Jesus’ future role as our good shepherd spiritually (John 10:11) and 3) to proclaim that Jesus was born as the Lamb of God who would give His life as a sacrifice for sins (John 1:29).