Sitting in the comfort of my home while I fill out the 2011 census, I’m feeling very grateful not to have lived two thousand years ago and conscious that the record of my details will have a less dramatic effect on world history than another entry made then. Luke’s Gospel tells us that when Mary was pregnant with the baby Jesus, Caesar Augustus decided to take a census of the ‘entire Roman world’. Every citizen had to return to their hometown, which for Mary and Joseph meant a 90 mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Taking the best part of week, the journey would have been extremely uncomfortable for Mary, bouncing up and down on the back of a donkey.
But God was using the circumstances of history to put the right people in the right place at the right time. Hundreds of years earlier the prophet Micah had said, ‘But you, Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel’. To fulfil the prophecy Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, had to be born in Bethlehem and it was the census that got him there in time.
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