And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph 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, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And 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. (Luke 2:1-7 NKJV)
Most Christians know the passage in Luke 2 about the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Many others have heard that passage read each Christmas. The birth of Jesus, who was born to die. “Although our first picture of Jesus is as a baby in a manger, it must not be our last. The Christ child in the manger is the subject of a beautiful Christmas scene, but we must not leave him there. This tiny, helpless baby lived an amazing life, died for us, ascended to heaven, and will return to earth as King of kings. Christ will rule the world and judge all people according to their decisions about him. Do you still picture Jesus as a baby in a manger—or is he your Lord? Make sure you don’t underestimate Jesus. Let him grow up in your life.” (Life Application Study Bible)
Joseph and Mary were not so poor that they could not afford a room at the end, but “there was no room for them in the inn.” Because of the registrations going on, each had to show up in their own city. According to the Jewish mode of registration the people would be enrolled by tribe, families or clans, and households. “But David occasionally went and returned from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.” (1 Samuel 17:15 NKJV).
Micah prophesied in Micah 5:2:
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
“This mention of the manger is the basis for the traditional belief that Jesus was born in a stable. Stables were often caves with feeding troughs (mangers) carved into the rock walls. Despite popular Christmas card pictures, the surroundings were dark and dirty. This was not the atmosphere the Jews expected as the birthplace of the Messiah-King. They thought their promised Messiah would be born in royal surroundings. We should not limit God by our expectations. He is at work wherever he is needed in our sin-darkened and dirty world.” (Life Application Study Bible)
All of the above was to set the location for the manger and why in my imagination, I believe birds would have been around the manger. There are no verses in the Bible to show there were birds there, nor are there any to show that lambs, cows, or horse were there either, as depicted in our Christmas scenes. So, here is what birds I think may have been there at Jesus’ birth.
Doves – “You who dwell in Moab, Leave the cities and dwell in the rock, And be like the dove which makes her nest In the sides of the cave’s mouth.” (Jeremiah 48:28 NKJV)
Turtledoves – The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come, And the voice of the turtledove Is heard in our land.” (Song of Solomon 2:12 NKJV)
Sparrows and Swallows- “How lovely is Your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints For the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, And the swallow a nest for herself, Where she may lay her young— Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, My King and my God.” (Psalms 84:1-3 NKJV) If they wanted to be at the altars or house of God, then surely, they wanted to be near their Creator.
Chickens and Roosters – “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37 NKJV) and Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” (Matthew 26:34 NKJV) Cave or Stable, there had to be Chickens, Hens, and Roosters.
Ravens – Who provides food for the raven, When its young ones cry to God, And wander about for lack of food? (Job 38:41 NKJV) They wanted to be near the One who has been feeding them.
I would think, in my “sanctified imagination,” that since the Lord created everything, birds included, that they might have been eager to see their Creator. Many humans failed to recognize Him while He was on earth, but I think the critters knew who He was. For example, the un-ridden donkey the Lord rode on. There is no report of it trying to buck or misbehave. It knew!
Produced by Sean Fielder and Pastor Jerry Smith
Photos-Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) by Reinier, Red Turtle Dove by Nikhil, Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis) by Nikhil Devasar, Chickens and Roosters by Maji, Brown-necked Raven, Israel