I hope you have been enjoying the Star of Wonder series and finding peace and joy during this Advent season.
The Journey to Bethlehem
Today, we follow Mary and Joseph as they set out for Bethlehem to participate in a census.
Unlike today, their census was not online or via a mail-in questionnaire; the residents had to head back to their home region to be counted for the census.
The governor decreed that a census should be taken, and Luke captures the story here:
“All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.” – Luke 2:3-4
As we have seen from the genealogy, Joseph was part of David’s line, so he had to return to Bethlehem – the birthplace of King David.
They saddled up their favorite donkey and headed out. Mary was quite pregnant now – in fact, her doctor probably would have recommended bed rest instead of a 90 mile trip over uneven terrain.
However, her fiancé was headed in that direction, so she went with him. According to scholars, this was the first census recorded in the New Testament. It was required of every citizen in the Roman Empire to be counted.
A census was not uncommon in Biblical history. Moses conducted a census of the Israelite clan after exiting Egypt.
King David conducted a census against what God wanted, which led to several thousands of people dying.
In this case, the Roman government wanted to know how many people were in their land so they could tax them appropriately (or inappropriately).
The journey was not easy. They needed to arrive to be counted, although they had no idea what was in store for them in the coming days.
Life is not always flat roads and beautiful scenery. It’s pretty hilly and unexpected. Our lives have been on a roller coaster for the past couple of years with the pandemic.
However, on the other side of our difficult journey, unimaginable joy greets us.
No Room in the Inn
After a 90 mile trip to Bethlehem for the census, Mary and Joseph finally arrive at their destination. However, there is one small problem – there are no available rooms in the inn.
I imagine that evening something like this…
The air was crisp and cool as their donkey strode into town. Joseph was on his last pair of sandals, and he could use a warm room and a comfortable bed.
Mary was ready to have baby Jesus any moment, and one more bump in the road would surely propel the child out of her.
They knocked on the innkeeper’s door and asked for a couple of rooms (since they weren’t married yet), and to their astonishment, the inn was full of census travelers.
The innkeeper replies, “All I have left is my stable in the back. The animals will keep you up, but the hay creates a nice warm bed for you to rest your weary bodies.”
Joseph replies, “We will take it.”
The stable smell was a bit overwhelming, but there was fresh hay and plenty of company (of the four-legged variety).
And then it happened…
“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger.” – Luke 2:6-7a
Joseph and the farm animals were there when baby Jesus made his entrance into our world.
No glitz. No glam, just a humble beginning for the Savior of the world.
The best Christmas gift we could ever receive is Jesus Christ. He came to seek and save those who are lost.
As the world twists and turns, Jesus came for each one of us. He came to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, remind us that our riches are in heaven, model generosity, and teach us to love each other.
Eventually, his sacrifice on a cross would pave the way for each of us to spend eternity with him.
And it all began with his birth in a stable.
Lord, thank you for the greatest gift in the world, Your Son. Please help us to give you our burdens and be a light in a dark world. Please continue to go before us as we celebrate this Advent season. Amen!
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