ADVENT MEDITATIONS No.16
16. Trapped by Circumstances
Luke 2:1-4 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.
Throughout history there have been groups of people who have decided that life, the world, is like a great clockwork machine and that everything is interlinked and no one and nothing is free from it. It’s like one great machine and you can’t affect it. Some have even gone as far as to say everything we say or do is determined by what has been. We are locked into a great machine, slaves to yesterday!
Now why do we sometimes feel that? Because governments and authorities decide the rules, the media portrays life as being a series of incidents where so much of it goes wrong and we feel we have little or no say in the destiny of the world. Joseph and Mary could have felt like that. They are part of a small nation, Israel , which has been taken over and ruled by Rome . Rome is all-powerful and so, because the Roman emperor has decided he would like to know exactly who he is ruling over, everyone has to be counted, and they are to be counted at the place of their birth. So, all over the country, people were moving to go to their home town to make sure on census day they were there. There were no doubt severe penalties for those who didn’t! In the case of a married couple, they were to go to the husband’s home town.
So here they are, expecting a baby – which Joseph, no doubt, isn’t feeling too sure about on a bad day – and now they have to travel from Nazareth in the south to Bethlehem in the north, because that’s the town of his family. Cogs in a machine, being driven by forces beyond them! Why Bethlehem? What’s special about Bethlehem? That will become clear later, but for the moment it seems there is little point in it, except the emperor requires it. Isn’t that just how life is so much of the time? We seem carried along by the winds of circumstance and we don’t know why. We wish we could win a million pounds, say, and break free from the daily drudgery and not have to work, perhaps, for work can seem such a part of the ‘machine’ which holds us in place. In such a framework of thinking, it is so easy to feel depressed. What’s the point? Why am I here? Why is this happening? If only I hadn’t… If only I had…. Yes, there are days when it seems that that is all there is.
It’s like what we were thinking about, in respect of Elizabeth and Zechariah, a little while back. She’s pregnant and it’s going to be nine months before anything is going to happen, so it’s a waiting time. We’ve just got to get on with life and wait for the next significant thing to happen. For Mary and Joseph, it’s having to be at Bethlehem. Get the census out of the way and we can get on with life again. Oh really? You don’t know some of the things that are going to happen there, because one thing we’ve forgotten about here, is that God has a plan and God is on the move. That’s so easy to forget in what seems the ordinary mundane day to day working out of life. Oh yes, it may seem that ‘big people’ are moving us around like pawns on a chess board, but actually God is the One who is ruling over it all. Don’t lose sight of that today, or tomorrow, or any other day! Look for Him in it. Remind yourself what He has said or done to get you to today. Get perspective! Get a God perspective, and that will change everything!