At that time the Roman Emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria. All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendent of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David's ancient home. He travelled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him, Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available to them. That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them, "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior-yes, the Messiah, the Lord-has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger." Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others-the armies of heaven-praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased." When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, "Let's go to Bethlehem! Let's see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened, and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds' story were astonished. But Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought of them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
Luke was a doctor. He writes his gospel like a well researched journal article. It is amazing how much of the side details he includes. He tells us who the emperor of Rome was, and who was the governor of Syria. If you were to look at the Roman records, then you could pinpoint the exact time of this census. The important isn't so much the details, but that before there was time God already had all this worked out. He knew about the census. It wasn't a challenge for him chosing a woman from Nazareth, because he already knew that she would be traveling to Bethlehem. Two simple parents who travelled to Bethlehem. They had to be of little means or importance, because no one had room to let them stay. They ended up in a stable. When the Son of Almighty God was born they placed him in a feeding trough! God could have announced the incarnation to all of Israel, but he chose to reveal it to shepherds. The shepherds were so astonished that they rushed to meet this newborn king! Then when they left they went about telling everyone they met what had happened. The first preachers of the Messiah were just simple shepherds. Once again, God had chosen the simple things of this world to work out his plan of salvation.