The manger scene captures one of the most pivotal moments in history. But when we see a Nativity, we often forget the long road that led there-not simply the wearying trip Joseph and Mary took to be counted in the census, but also the trail blazed through history by conquering rulers and displaced peoples. As countries erupted into political turmoil or arose with new ideals, God was carving a path to the Holy Land, the perfect cradle for the Messiah.
The route began in Eden, where blood was first spilled to atone for sin. The temporary solution-animal sacrifice-would suffice until God enacted His permanent plan in the "fullness of time" (Gal. 4:4). Establishment of the nation and delivery of the law marked Israel as God's people; these, too, were steps toward the destination, as was the taking of the Promised Land, where Christ would be born.
As the Israelites turned to false gods, the Lord's patience waned, and He withdrew His protection. They were conquered and taken captive to Babylonia, where in time, they developed synagogues-local places to worship God. The Medes and Persians defeated the Babylonians 70 years later and let Israel return home. The ones who did brought the adaptations of Judaism they'd been practicing, including synagogues.
Together, prophecy and history reveal how God continued to pave the way from the manger to modern faith. Synagogues hosted men like Paul, who preached and sent letters about the Messiah born in Bethlehem. And today missionaries still use his epistles-and all of Scripture-to lead unbelievers to faith.