Reflection: These verses remind us that Jesus was born into a world that did not recognise him as king. It was a Roman world with a Roman ruler who, when he snapped his fingers or signed a scroll, made people move. His decision to count the people in his realm resulted in the displacement and discomfort of many; it created houses packed to the rafters, and inns with no vacancies. It is easy to explain away all this discomfort as the outworking of bureaucracy, if it weren’t for a greater plan already in place.
It is easy to see the workings of government as extraneous to God’s purposes or as a distraction from them, but here Caesar’s bureaucracy forms an essential part of the fulfilment of God’s promises and the prophecies regarding the arrival of the Messiah. The Messiah was prophesied to be born in Bethlehem and and while Joseph and Mary were there for the census, Jesus was born. The town was packed. There were no spare rooms or beds, they had to fit in where they could. And it was here, in a small uncomfortable corner of a small town, that the Messiah was born, to poor parents of little means, chosen by God, and rich in faith and trust in him.
God used unlikely means to accomplish his purposes in the arrival of the Messiah. Are we willing to see through the unlikely and the unexpected and recognise his holy will?
Prayer: Lord, you have kept all your promises, although in ways that perhaps we don’t always understand. Your answer to every promise is Jesus. Help me to see him for who he is, and enable me to respond to him in worship.