Bethlehem. That’s where Jesus was born.
Nazareth. That’s where Jesus should have been born.
If there’d been no census decreed by Caesar Augustus, Jesus would have been born not in Bethlehem but in Nazareth, the home town of Mary and Joseph. But the census changed everything, and meant that the engaged couple had to return to their ancestral home for registration. They had to go to Bethlehem. Unbeknown to the Roman Emperor, his decree meant that the King of kings ended up being born in exactly the place prophesied hundreds of years before (Micah 5:2)! It also meant that Mary was taken away from her home town during the final weeks of her pregnancy, probably saving her some embarrassment. It also caused the One who is the Bread of Life to be born in the ‘House of Bread’ – which was what the name Bethlehem actually means (see my blog: Beth-lehem).
It’s amazing how God weaved together all sorts of people, decisions and events in order to bring off his Master Plan! And he still does that today and will use us in his purposes – although we don’t always see it so clearly at the time. Sometimes we only get perspective as we look back.
Don’t assume, though, that God’s plans are always easy or convenient. In a culture with very clear sexual boundaries I’m sure Mary wouldn’t have asked to be pregnant but unmarried. And she certainly wouldn’t have chosen to make the 80-mile round trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem – a journey of five or six days – whilst heavily pregnant. Convenient or not, God’s plans are always good.
God is at work. In our lives. In our communities and regions. Using all sorts of people, including you and me. He loves it when we willingly join in and submit ourselves in prayer to his will and ways. That doesn’t make us passive puppets; rather it makes us faithful followers. That’s what he’s looking for.
Have you willingly submitted yourself to God’s plans this Christmas? Are there some things you need to be doing that may be inconvenient but are good?