Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are the primary characters in the grand story of Christmas. Without them, there would be no Christmas story. In a movie, play, or television series, there are the main actors and the supporting cast. Those who play supporting roles are not as widely recognized, but often are crucial to the story as a whole.
As I talked to the Lord about what I should write for the month of December, the Holy Spirit reminded me that He used many people to bring the story of Christmas to life. When I went to Luke chapter 2, I discovered that, indeed, there are 4 people or groups of people without whom the Christmas story might not have happened. Each Monday in December we will take a look at these individuals or groups and see how they contribute to the story of Christmas.
Join me for Christmas Characters.
Today we begin our series with the first person mentioned in the Christmas story of Luke 2, Caesar Augustus.
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. Luke 2: 1 (NKJV) emphasis, mine
Who is Caesar Augustus?
Born Gaius Octavius, on September 23 63 BC in Italy, Caesar Augustus was the great nephew of Julius Caesar. His family was well-to-do, with his father being part of the government aristocracy. His mother was the niece of Julius Caesar, the child of Caesar’s sister, Julia.
From his teens Octavius was the protégée of Julius Caesar. When Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC, Octavius learned, at the age of 19, that he had been adopted by Julius Caesar and was his principal heir. As Octavius advanced in the government and rose to supremacy, he changed his name to Augustus Caesar in 29 BC.
Biographer Suetonius described him in this way:
He was unusually handsome and exceedingly graceful at all periods of his life, though he cared nothing for personal adornment. His expression, whether in conversation or when he was silent, was calm and mild.…He had clear, bright eyes, in which he liked to have it thought that there was a kind of divine power, and it greatly pleased him, whenever he looked keenly at anyone, if he let his face fall as if before the radiance of the sun. His teeth were wide apart, small and ill-kept; his hair was slightly curly and inclining to golden; his eyebrows met.…His complexion was between dark and fair. He was short of stature, but this was concealed by the fine proportion and symmetry of his figure, and was noticeable only by comparison with some taller person standing beside him.
Augustus Caesar was considered to be a brilliant administrator. He completely reorganized the Roman government, bringing unprecedented peace (Pax Romana) to the nation. He died August 19, 14 BC. One of his decrees was that the citizenry would be registered, necessitating every man to return to his family home and register every 14 years. It was this compulsory registration that brought Joseph and Mary seventy difficult miles from the Galilee to Bethlehem where Jesus would be born.
Augustus Caesar likely never met Jesus, nor did He become a Christian, yet God used him to fulfill prophecy that was given hundreds of years prior concerning the birthplace of the Messiah.
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of your shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. Micah 5: 2 (NKJV) emphasis, mine
Did this pagan ruler know that he was being used to advance God’s Kingdom calendar? Doubtful.
May I offer you 3 takeaways from our time with Caesar Augustus today?
God uses whom He desires to accomplish His purposes. God may be using you in ways you cannot even fathom. Stay faithful to last word you heard from God.
Trust God Even When Things Do Not Make Sense
God’s ways may not always be explainable or reasonable in the human realm, yet He is always at work. Trust Him. Trust that He is at work and that He knows the end from the beginning. Trust Him even when it does not make sense.
Do Not Despair
Christians, do not despair when rulers or authorities who do not follow Christ gain power. God will use them for His purposes. They are not outside the control of God. Trust His heart in whatever He allows. They just might be used by God to advance the KINGDOM CALENDAR.
Friends, did you learn anything new from our time with Caesar Augustus? How will what you learned impact your faith?
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