In reading Luke 2:1-7, let us first notice the age in which Christ was born. It was in the days when Augustus, the first Roman emperor, made "a decree that all the world should be taxed."
The wisdom of God appears in this simple fact. The scepter of power was practically departing from Judah (Genesis 49:10). The Jews were coming under the dominion and taxation of a foreign power. Strangers were beginning to rule over them. They had no longer an independent government of their own. The "due time" had come for the promised Messiah to appear. Augustus taxes "the world," and at once Christ is born.
It was a time perfectly suited for the introduction of the gospel. The whole civilized earth was at length governed by one master (Daniel 2:40). There was nothing to prevent the preacher of a new faith going from city to city and country to country. The princes and priests of the non-Jewish world had been weighed in the balances and found lacking. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome had all successively proven that "the world through its wisdom did not know God" (1 Corinthians 1:21). Even with all their mighty conquerors, poets, historians, architects, and philosophers, the kingdoms of the world were full of dark idolatry. It was, indeed, "due time" for God to interpose from heaven and send down an almighty Savior. It was "due time" for Christ to be born (Romans 5:6).
All history is in God's hand (Psalms 31:15). He knows the best season for sending help to His church and new light to the world. Let us not be anxious about the course of events around us, as if we knew better than the King of kings what time relief should come. "Cease, Philip, to try to govern the world," was a frequent saying of Luther to an anxious friend. It was a saying full of wisdom.
Adapted from The Gospel of Luke by J.C. Ryle (Chapter 2).