An Advent devotional I’ve been reading points out the clash between two simultaneous events: the census under Caesar Augustus and the birth of the Saviour. The census was an impersonal process, a bureaucratic measure of people as masses. The birth was a unique event wherein a particular person, more unique than most, was born in a certain place at a certain time. The census was an expression of government power over populations, the birth an expression of powerlessness embodying significance, and a single person’s investment in all human creatures as individuals.
It seems the birth happened just after Mary and Joseph’s arrival, the registration in the census after that. So that means that Joseph, Mary and their newborn were counted in the census.
Think about the implications.
The newborn babe, Jesus of Nazareth, was included in a counting of all the human beings in the empire.
From the moment of his birth, Jesus Son of Man identified with us and became one of us. He was counted as just one more number in the numbers of persons to be ruled and taxed. Throughout his life, he exposed himself to every possible indignity, for being numbered is an indignity, a reminder of one’s subjection to power, a threat to keep one’s place. The Son Of God and The Son of Man, upon birth, became an undistinguished number on an official government record.
He exchanged omnipotence for complete dependence. He exchanged ultimate authority for grinding subjection. He exchanged glory and honor for dismissal and oppression.
But also note God’s thoroughness: it is recorded that Jesus was a real person, registered under duly established government. For God is a playwright whose scripts are real and perfect.