Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.
We like to idealize the past, our perfect carefree childhood Christmases, the sweet baby Jesus bundled up in a manger with cute little sheep complacently peeking at Him on the hay. But the truth is the world Jesus was born into was just as chaotic and scary as the one we're living in today.
And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
Things were not picture perfect for Mary and Joseph. They were dealing with some very tough, even life threatening, situations. Mary was pregnant before marriage -- a potential death sentence. The government was making Joseph join throngs of other travelers to go back to his hometown for the census, with a pregnant young woman in tow. This was not only majorly inconvenient timing, but was a heavy risk to her health and safety, and that of the child within.
While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Sometimes you just have to do the best with what you have. Mary gave birth in a stable. I imagine the conditions were less than sanitary. She put Jesus to bed in the animal's food bin; it's what she had.
In a perfect world everyone would have enough all year long with a little extra at Christmastime. In a perfect world we could keep family traditions alive without concern for the added cost. But this world is not perfect, and sometimes we just make do with what we have.
This year there was no room in our budget for a Christmas tree. Our bin of Christmas tree ornaments will not be brought up from the basement this year. There will be no joyous exclamations from the children declaring their remembrance of certain ornaments as each is unwrapped one by one to be displayed for the season. Instead, we will make do with what we have and create new traditions and make new memories. A wooden bar stool, a snowflake patterned sheer tablecloth, and a few strings of lights will be transformed from mundane into something magical. The stage is set for the tales to be told of wise men from afar and shepherds regaled with music from above.
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity.
The world isn't going to stop being a scary place just because it's Christmas. We won't all become millionaires over night. But this message of peace brings hope to the fearful; it brings light to the lost. Because of this promise, we can celebrate this Christmas even though the world is chaotic and scary. We celebrate the promise of peace that will never end, peace on earth!