At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
Why now? We’ve all said it or felt it before. We have something big happening and something unexpected gets in the way. We get sick. We are called for jury duty. We get a job transfer. Or we get laid off. Why now?
Mary was due to have the most important baby in the history of the world and Governor Quirinius calls for a census! The expecting mother would have to journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a distance of 70-80 miles in a straight line, but they would have had to detour around Samaria.
The Jews and Samaritans hated each other so traveling alone through Samaria would risk being attacked by bandits and no one would be willing to help a Jewish couple if they needed help or had to deliver the baby in route. The long way around was probably more like 90-100 miles. A healthy person could do twenty miles a day, but Mary’s late term pregnancy would make it much slower, perhaps 7-10 days.
Interruptions to our plans and unexpected circumstances seem like they get in the way of our lives, but they are generally all part of God’s plan. Who hasn’t been delayed only to find out there was an accident on the route to work at the exact time you would have passed by if you had left on time? God is in the details, even your lost car keys. Instead of getting frustrated, remember to accept God’s timing.
Mary and Joseph couldn’t have known they needed to be in Bethlehem. Long ago, God has spoken through the prophets who foretold the birthplace of the Messiah: Bethlehem. God had a hand in calling for a census. He knew Joseph would have to return to Bethlehem, the City of David, to be counted.
It was inconvenient to have to travel so far (before modern transportation!) right when Mary was due to give birth. They could have felt frustrated and angry. They could have refused to go. But they were willing, submissive, and obedient to the laws of the land and the laws of their God.
How we feel about inconveniences may not change the outcome, but it will change how we feel. We can choose peace or agitation when things don’t go as we wish. Trust God to know why the details of a given situation are important.
Lord, I ask for your peace right now. I struggle so often when things don’t go right for me. When the expectations others have of me seem inconvenient or life circumstances get in the way, I don’t always have a good attitude. I can see how you really do orchestrate the details of life in a complex way that includes each person. Thank you for trusting me to have a part of your work and help me to trust you for the details. Give me patience when things go wrong so I can see you at work in the detours of my life. Thank you.
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