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A hard journey to Joseph’s home city

December 18, 2021

Daily Scripture

Luke 2:1-6

1 In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. 2 This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. 3 Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. 4 Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. 5 He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby.

Did You Know?

Over the centuries, Christian imagination has assumed details about the Christmas story that Luke never mentioned. Luke did not say how Mary traveled to Bethlehem. The Protoevangelium of James, a document written around 150 A.D., was the first to mention a donkey. Luke also didn’t say Mary gave birth the night they arrived in Bethlehem. He simply wrote that “while they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Caesar Augustus (his given name was Octavian) aimed to collect more taxes for his far-flung empire. He didn’t care whether his decree created hardships for some (or many) of his empire’s citizens or not. God “bent” the Caesar’s decree to divine purposes, using it to bring Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Joseph’s home city of Bethlehem, King David’s city of origin and the city from which Micah 5:2-4 had said the eternal “ruler for Israel” would come. It was a long, hard trip for pregnant Mary, with or without a donkey.

  • In her song of praise (“the Magnificat”), Mary sang that God “has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly” (Luke 1:52). This part of the Christmas story showed God already reversing earthly priorities. The Emperor Octavian, a human who thought he was a God (the title “Augustus” meant “revered”), used his human power to issue a decree that forced Mary and Joseph to make a difficult journey. As the Caesar went about his pompous work, he had no idea that the true God of the universe was using his decree to begin a unique divine-human life that would carry out divine promises to a people Rome despised. The child born to peasant parents in Bethlehem would ultimately shift the world away from Roman values, with a kingdom that has far outlasted the arrogant Empire and its arbitrary tax-collecting decrees. Who do you most seek to live like: the Caesar or the Christ (“anointed one”)?

The Journey: A Season of Reflections

Today’s Insights blog was chapter 19, “The Journeys We Don’t Want to Take,” from The Journey: A Season of Reflections, by Adam Hamilton. Copyright © 2011 by Abingdon Press, and available on our website for 24 hours by permission of Abingdon Press. If you’d like to buy the entire book of reflections, you can click here for a direct link to the Cokesbury sale page, as well as other Journey resources.


Lord Jesus, the noisy world went heedlessly about its business as you were born. But it seems that all of heaven hushed attentively as God launched his pivotal invasion of earth, the one that would quietly change the course of history forever. Thank you for coming to earth. Amen.

GPS Insights

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Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.