Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Census

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. -Luke 2:1-4

The other day I saw a poster announcing the 2010 United States Census. Being a life-long student of history and an aficionado of genealogy, my ears always perk up when I hear anything about the U.S. census. Starting in 1870, the United States began taking a census of its citizens. Even decade since people have registered where they live, who they live with, how old they are, and where they were born. Censuses tell a story--even if it is just a snapshot of someone's life--by recording a person's existence in time and place.

I have often wondered at God's plan of having Jesus born in Bethlehem. After all, His mother and earthly father were both living in Nazareth when the Angel announced that God's Son was to be born. How momentous to call an entire nation home-ward in order for a baby to be born in a lowly manger in a stable. But God is a God who sees, and He was fulfilling the prophecies inspired by His own words:

"The days are coming," declares the LORD,"when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. -Jeremiah 23:5

It might have been enough that Jesus was to be born from the line of Judah, the descendant of King David, but God took it a step further and decided that His Son was going to be born in the very birth place of His lineage. For it says in Micah 5:2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. "

The Gospel of Luke (the only Gospel to discuss the census) does not mention whether Joseph really did register for the census. (Yet can you imagine what that record might have looked like! Jesus in a Roman census!) What began as a journey to appease Caesar's rule became the birthday of a Savior. Jesus did not need a scribe's ledger to record His birth. The Angels loudly proclaimed His very existence, and the heavens burst forth with joyful light. That very night, God recorded something far more miraculous than a census. With His first brilliant cry, our Lord Jesus humbled himself so that one day our names would be inscribed in His Book of Life. God's ultimate census--a record of our status at the feet of the King.

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