1And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. 4Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
If I were to ask you to tell me the story of the birth of Jesus, where would you fit the name “Quirinius” in? You would probably tell me about the shepherds and how there was no room at the inn. You might work in something about swaddling clothes and a manger, but you would probably be hard-pressed to shoehorn into the story much about the Syrian governor Quirinius. So would I. I can’t ever remember mentioning his name in my own tellings of the story. You probably don’t have a Governor Quirinius action figure to go along with your nativity scene.
So why does Luke use up this precious real estate on the pages of the Bible telling us who was in charge at the time of Jesus’ birth? Well, one answer is that he is giving us a couple of historical landmarks by telling us who was caesar at the time, and who was governor, so that we remember that Jesus was a real man born into history. But that isn’t all. We read these names, but then these guys don’t matter for the rest of the story. We hear who the world leaders are, but the angels don’t go to them. They aren’t told that the savior is born in the city of David or about the babe lying in the manger. They don’t even get to hear the song that the angels sing. They are left out of the loop, and in the dark. The new king had arrived, the new order was beginning, and the world leaders didn’t even get a memo.
Far outside the soft palaces and the luxurious comfort of these rulers’ beds that night, in a barn, in a backwater town, a baby was born. Jesus’ invasion of the kingdoms of men began. The Kingdom of God couldn’t be conjured out of the powers and authorities that were already in place; they were weak and ineffectual for salvation. Deliverance has to come from the outside. Human systems and organizations need to be saved themselves, so they cannot offer deliverance. They are powerless to meet man’s most fundamental needs, so Jesus must invade them and overturn them.
Therefore we cannot put our hope in princes or presidents, but in the King that was born in a stable. We pray for His advent. We pray that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We join with Him in His invasion of the kingdoms and organizations of men to bring them all under His dominion.
—Assistant Pastor Duane Garner, Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church, Monroe, Louisiana
Eternal Father, from whom all truth and justice proceeds: subdue the nations of the world, and grant them your peace. Hasten the time when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. AMEN.
Sing Psalm 135 (next page). Discuss all the ways that the Kingdom is still breaking into the world, what other idols must yet fall, and how we should go about the business of overturning them.