Luke 2:1 NIV
Prophecies have been given, John has been born, Jesus has been conceived miraculously, and Joseph has agreed to adopt the child into the kingly line of David. All is ready. Well, almost. There is just one issue: Joseph and Mary are in totally the wrong place. The Old Testament prophecies say that David’s heir must be born in Bethlehem. So for this prophecy to be fulfilled, Mary and Joseph must somehow leave Nazareth and end up in Bethlehem. Luke tells us that they ended up in the right place because, far away in Rome, the emperor had decided to count heads. The result is that Joseph has to travel southwards, taking his pregnant wife with him. We see God nudging the most important person in the known world so that he sets in motion a complex international bureaucratic procedure resulting in a peasant girl giving birth in just the right place. Here, God uses the mighty to serve His purposes. Where the focus in the Advent accounts has been small-scale and local, now Rome, the emperor and the Empire’s administration make an appearance. This is no coincidence: the Gospel writers tell us that what is about to happen in Bethlehem will have a vast significance for the emperor and the Empire. Luke is hinting that this is going to be part of a global story. There are still many empire like organisations and companies in this world. It is easy to feel vulnerable and helpless, yet this census reminds us that standing above these earthly powers is the heavenly power of God. Caesars, and those like them, may think they control the world, but the reality is otherwise. If we know Christ, then the One who rules the nations is on our side.
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