They were living in difficult times. The oppressive boot of Rome had come down heavily on Palestine. The people staggered beneath the weight of poverty and unjust taxation. To make matters worse, the Emperor, Caesar Augustus, had issued a decree that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. Quite a proposal even for one who considered himself to be a god.
It would require everyone to travel to the city of his ancestors to register for a census that would enable Rome to tax them even further. For one young couple, it would mean traveling seventy miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem – a difficult journey under the best of circumstances, nearly impossible for a teenage girl only days away from giving birth to her first child.
What went through Joseph’s mind as he looked with tender eyes at his young fiancee? Did he question God’s timing in all of this? Did his mind reel with imagined scenarios of what could go wrong? Suppose Mary’s labor begins on the road to Bethlehem? Suppose she has complications? How will I keep her safe?
Or did he remember the words of the prophet – words he had surely read:
“But thou, Beth-lehem Ephrathah, which art little to be among the thousands of Judah, out of thee shall one come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2
And in the remembering, did a deep sense of peace fill his heart? This God, who had done this miraculous thing, was in control. He had taken a man who thought he was more powerful and wise than any other and used him to fulfill the promise made hundreds of years ago. The Savior would be born in Bethlehem, and Caesar Augustus was unknowingly playing his part.
We, too, live in difficult times. It is easy to forget that nothing happens apart from God’s sovereign will. There is a plan. This tiny baby, born in the exact place God had foretold, is coming again one day. Earthly powers, filled with an overblown sense of their own greatness, will fade into insignificance. One is coming who is ruler of all.
We celebrate His coming as a baby. We await His coming as King of kings and Lord of lords. We trust that He is in control and that all things will work together according to His plan.
“He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Rev. 22:20