In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. (ESV)
When Luke recorded his Gospel, he referred to real historical political leaders of the time. This is a reminder to us that these were real people living in real history.
There are those today, like the guy who arrives late to the party, who would still question if the biblical Jesus of Nazareth really did exist in history. Most reputable historians, even the most secular ones, would acknowledge that Jesus was a real person of historical record.
In his second epistle, the apostle Peter recorded:
2 Peter 1:16
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (ESV)
2 Peter 1:16
Jesus was not the figment of a person's imagination like the mythic god of the Greeks and the Romans were. In the light of this, I see a problem with images of Jesus that depict him as being of different ethnic backgrounds (e.i. Chinese, Hispanic, and even Caucasian). He did not have blonde hair or blue eyes. He was a Jew that lived in the Middle East. Who of us has seen any paintings or pictures of a black Julius Caesar or a Japanese Martin Luther King?
During this time of the year when we who are believers celebrate the birth of our Savior, let us be reminded that we serve a God who took on human flesh and intervened into real history. Yes, as Christians we do live by faith, but the faith that we live by is not a leap into the darkness of ignorance and myth but a step into the light of truth and events that really took place in history. There was a real stable outside of Bethlehem, and there is a real empty tomb outside the city of Jerusalem.