LGD 161: The Bethlehem Census

A dirt road in the middle of nowhere

Christmas is near – three short days away!

The journey continues in The Ten Days of Christmas Advent series, as Mary and Joseph pack their bags for the trip to Bethlehem.

A dirt road in the middle of nowhere
Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

On the eighth day of Christmas, Mary and Joseph set out to Bethlehem to take part in a census.

Unlike today, their census was not online or via a mail-in questionnaire; the residents had to head back to their home region to be counted for the census.

The governor decreed that the census should be taken, and Luke captures the story here:

“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.”

Luke 2:3-4

As we have seen from the genealogy, Joseph was part of David’s line, so he had to return to Bethlehem – the birthplace of King David.

They saddled up their favorite donkey and headed out. Mary was quite pregnant now – in fact, her doctor probably would have recommended bed rest instead of a 90 mile trip over uneven terrain.

However, her finance was headed in that direction, so she followed. According to scholars, this was the first census recorded in the New Testament. It was required of every citizen in the Roman Empire to be counted.

A census was not uncommon in Biblical history. Moses conducted a census of the Israelite clan after exiting Egypt.

King David conducted a census, but against what God wanted and led to several thousands of people dying.

In this case, it appears the Roman government wanted to know how many people were in their land so that they could tax them appropriately (or inappropriately).

The journey was not easy. They needed to arrive to be counted, although they had no idea what was in store for them in the coming days.

Life is not always flat roads and beautiful scenery. In fact, it’s quite hilly and unexpected.

However, sometimes on the other side of our difficult journey, unimaginable joy greets us.

Today, lift up those around you who are struggling during this Christmas season amid the COVID crisis. Every day, we hear of the tragedy of people dying, others infected, and more having to quarantine. Let’s ask God to protect our land and heal it as only He can.

Prayer: Lord, we need you, and we are thankful and grateful for the birth of Your Son that you sent to save our broken world. We ask You to heal our land, restore weary bodies, and protect those around us. We ask for your protection for the frontline workers who graciously and sacrificially serve amid our current crisis. Please, Lord, hear our prayers and heal our land. Amen!


The Ten Days of Christmas Series

I am the host of an ABF Lifegroup - a collection of folks doing community and life together. We are a ministry of Agoura Bible Fellowship. When I am not leading this group, I love to travel, take photographs, share stories, and design workspaces that matter.

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