If it wasn’t for the census that Caesar Augustus decreed should be taken, Joseph and Mary would have been able to stay in Nazareth and properly prepare their home for the impending arrival of their first-born. They may not have decked out a nursery like many parents do today, but Mary could have spent the last stages of her pregnancy at home, in comfort, surrounded by family and loved ones. Her cousin, Elizabeth, likely would have doted on her and shared from her own recent experience of having a baby.
Instead, the young, betrothed couple made the long journey to Bethlehem (it’s about 69 miles from Nazareth. . . today), not even knowing where they would stay once they arrived. Joseph might have been able to register for the census by himself, but perhaps he didn’t want to leave Mary alone, especially in her condition, which might have appeared shameful to some.
Clearly, God had a plan for this couple and their child, even if they couldn’t see what it was. God could have easily arranged it that Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, would be born under remarkable, majestic circumstances, with fanfare and festivities. Instead, Mary and Joseph were very much alone and, when it came time for Jesus to be born, they didn’t even have a proper room for Mary’s delivery. There was no dignity, no comfortable bed, no clean sheets or sterile tools or painkillers.
Some historians suggest that it wasn’t uncommon for poor families to have a manger within the home instead of in a separate barn. If that was the case here, it’s likely that Mary and Joseph didn’t have any privacy either, but were surrounded by strangers who were also in town for the census.
And yet, none of that hindered God’s plan. The Son of God, the Savior, was born that night in Bethlehem and it wasn’t long before His glory was recognized and celebrated.
What a great reminder to us that it isn’t our circumstances or environment that matter when we seek to serve God and carry out His purpose. What matters is our obedience and willingness. His glory will shine through the humblest heart!
I wish you all a blessed Christmas!
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