Luke 2:1-5. 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 their 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. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
He was big, and I was not. We were in the middle of a pickup hockey game, one from each team, both going for the puck, when neither yielded to the other. “Crash!” Or “bounce,” was more like it. Weighing probably half his weight and several inches shorter than his frame, my body bounced to the rink surface—but I made the shot. GOAL! At least he was nice about it and put out a hand to help me up.
Sometimes we face people or situations that tower over us, double our weight, double our size. We’re going for the net, and they get in front of it, blocking it with a body that is too big, too strong, too powerful. The scene of Luke 2 opens in such a way, with Roman trumpets blaring an imperial order coming from Caesar Augustus when Quirinius was governor of Syria. You can clearly see the impact of Rome’s domination of the known world—how the Jews were subject to the whims and rages of both the distant Roman rulers and the all-too close Roman army, how order is maintained at any cost in the outlying provinces, and how funds are exacted for the good of the Roman home provinces. Clearly, Luke tells us, Rome controls everything.
Or does it?
While one man, one Roman man, issues an order at which the world jumps and runs to be enrolled, something else is happening. If you only begin reading in Luke 2, you miss it. In fact, you may misunderstand the point of the entire story. The long chapter of Luke 1, some 80 verses that take place way before Caesar Augustus even orders anything, shows us how this Joseph and this Mary who quietly skate into the scene are part of initiating a Kingdom that will eventually outlast even Rome.
Admittedly Rome was big, but God was bigger.
What or who are you facing that looks to be dominating your story? What is big and powerful that everybody else has succumbed to? But where is God at work—could be at work—on the fringes, behind the scenes, in small places? Will you live in hope or in fear?
Are you listening?