“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.”
Luke 2:1 – 3
I love the Christmas story as told by the good Dr. Luke. He has a beautiful way with words that speaks to me more powerfully than Matthew’s version. I find it particularly interesting that Luke doesn’t begin with the details of the birth or even as Matthew does with the details surrounding Mary and Joseph’s betrothal and how Joseph considered calling the whole thing off. Luke begins the birth narrative with an event that is very secular. The ruler, Caesar, decides it is time for a census; a head count. And this head count, will give Caesar a better idea of how many are within his kingdom and consequently how much he will earn from taxing his subjects. It is an issue of government. And in the middle of this strife and yes there had to be strife since nobody wants to be taxed. (That simple fact was true then and it is still true today.) So in the middle of all this, we learn that Joseph must go back to his hometown in order to be counted and chooses to take Mary with him. I am sure he believed she would be safer with him, even though the journey would be arduous for her since she is near her time to give birth. So off to Bethlehem they go where God will give the world God’s most precious gift: God’s only son.
Jesus was born during a time of political unrest, a very taxing time if you will. (pun intended!) A time, that in all honesty, was probably not unlike our own. O, we may be more sophisticated, or at least we may think we are. We definitely have more knowledge and access to that knowledge is as close as the nearest internet connection. We have an easier life in some ways and a much harder life in others. And it is in that sort of back drop that Jesus came into the world. A beacon of light in a world filled with darkness. A hope of peace. And it is through Jesus and the influence he has on our lives that we are able to find true peace. Peace that lasts even in the midst of the most terrible turmoil. Peace that allows us to know that the events swirling about in our lives and in our world are temporary. They all come to an end one way or another. In John’s gospel chapter 14 Jesus is taking some time to offer comfort to his disciples as he is teaching them he will not always be with them. In verse 27 Jesus says these words to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Jesus comforts by giving the gift of peace.
Jesus gives us the precious gift of peace too. Peace that he brought into this world on a night long ago at a time when the world was not at peace. Peace far different and more wonderful than we can ever imagine. Peace that allows us to hear the words the angel said to the shepherds, “do not be afraid for I bring you good news….” News that includes being able to have peace in our hearts in all seasons of life.