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A Census at Bethlehem

Pieter Bruegel painted in the 16th century. One of his paintings that I love because it's both biblically based and it's a bit of a "Where's Waldo?". The inn is crowded. In the mid-foreground, a woman is seated on an ass, in the company of a man with a saw on his shoulder, and he's leading an ox. Mary and Joseph are on their way to Bethlehem where Joseph's ancestors come from because of the decree of the Roman emperor for a census. The painting is from 1566 and
is entitled:

"Christmas Census at Bethlehem".

The text in Luke reads:
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.
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.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:1-7 (NIV)

The beauty of the Christmas story is it's simplicity. In the context of a governmental order a movement takes place. The movement of a man and his young bride to return back to his origins - Bethlehem - leads to the beginning of a movement by God for his people to return back to him. Joseph returned to his roots, and with his movement back home, Jesus comes forth from his mother's womb, and Immanuel occurs - God is with us.

Christmas is a time to return to the roots of our life in God. It's a time to simply pray, to simply give, to simply return my heart to its first love - my savior and my God.

Perhaps like me it can be a day to simply, humbly, speak to God. To say "I love you Lord"... to ask for forgiveness of sins done - intentionally and unintentionally... to reach out and give the present of self to someone who is in need... to read God's word with eyes open for his love language to each of us... to be grateful and thankful for his gifts, no matter what they may seem to be... to pray for those who can't seemingly do the things above.

Merry Christmas Eve.


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