2 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. It goes without saying, having to subject yourself to a kingdom wide census, where you have to travel to the hometown of your husband the same week you're scheduled to give birth, would be an unpleasant situation.
There’s no doubt this in itself would cause the most faith filled believers among us to lose their focus of God’s plan for their life. Thankfully, Mary was more faithful than most. Even more so, a Roman Emperor imposing a mandatory census upon the whole Jewish nation, would have been a valid reason for most Hebrews to be reminded and fixated upon the fact that they were an occupied and oppressed people, living at the mercy and will of their enemy. Could you imagine the political atmosphere, and general disposition of the people of Israel during this time? Especially for those who were forced to travel long distances at their own expense and inconvenience to be counted. Surely, it would be safe to assume for most Hebrews this was not a time of rejoicing and expectancy for God’s promises for His people. I would suggest that the days before Jesus was born, the overall level of expectancy for the goodness of God to breakthrough was probably incredibly low. I find it ironic and glorious that God Almighty found this to be the perfect time and scenario for Jesus to be born into. In a time where people were reminded of their defeat and oppression, God was planning the greatest breakthrough of His Kingdom on earth anyone had ever seen. May I politely suggest that oftentimes even when circumstances seem bad, God is still doing something abundantly good. No doubt if ever there would be a time that the people of Israel would be looking for a Savior King, that time would not be during this census declared by the Roman government. Of course, we now know that this was exactly what happened.
The only known people that show up to acknowledge the birth of Emmanuel are of course Mary, Joseph, a handful of lowly shepherds and three magi who would probably be the equivalent of three religious studies professors at a small state college today. Everyone else who could benefit from what was happening in that manger in Bethlehem was oblivious to what was happening. Because everyone was focused on the inconvenience caused by their oppression. The same remains true today. The same God who broke through in those unexpecting times of ancient Israel, is showing up in the same power and grace today. He is showing up in our Church, He is showing up in our city, He is showing up in our families. The only question left to ask is pointed and simple. Are you going to allow the inconvenience of how things look, distract you from what God is doing? Are you going to miss Jesus breaking through in your Church, family, city because you are focused on how the enemy is trying to oppress you?
The devil is predictably loud about his work on the earth and is an expert at marketing what he is doing. He has to be loud, when what he is selling is unwanted and useless. He also knows he doesn't need you to like what he’s doing, he needs you distracted by it. The enemy knows that if he can keep you focused on oppression you'll eventually miss the victory God is offering, and manifesting in your life. What you focus your mind upon the most, eventually gains the most influence over your heart. What has influence over your heart, eventually teaches you what to expect. If defeat has influence over you heart, then you will live expecting defeat. If God has influence over your heart, you most certainly will live expecting Him to do a great act of breakthrough and blessing, regardless of the circumstances of your life. You will live in such a way where you can show up to small, messy, seemingly insignificant places, looking for the Savior King. Ultimately knowing what seems like defeat to the world is actually the beginning of great breakthrough and significance in the Kingdom.