Modern Nativity: Census
-Rev Melissa Fain-
In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled. 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.
The only sure things in life is death and taxes.
We had just moved back home with our young son and newborn daughter. Our belongings were still in their boxes. Our four-person family was cramped in a home meant for two. In almost every home, including the one we now live in, our garage was spotless save for our cars and a few bikes. In this home, the garage was filled with everything that we didn’t immediately need. It spoke to our displacement.
We were getting our life on track again: Paying hospital bills, and finding our new center when we were hit with a new blow. Our tax preparer made a $3,000 mistake and the IRS had come to collect. Suddenly we were filling out paperwork, putting everything else aside until we could figure out the tax problem.
I can’t possibly understand what it must have been like in an Ancient Near East context. It’s something that is, in almost every way, foreign to me. Yet, there is a grain of understanding that I can relate to. I know what it’s like to feel displaced in what is considered your own home, needing to focus on taxes when life feels so much more important. It’s not like the census had magically ended when Jesus was born. In the midst of a miracle, regular life still happened.
We tend to forget the regular stuff during the Advent season. The kids still have projects for school; the bills still need to be paid. Life, death and taxes are still a thing. We want to give our love and focus to Christmas, and the rituals surrounding it. Sometimes, that’s just not practical. That’s okay. Life continues. It’s not that life must stop so Christmas can happen. It’s that God joins us in life to celebrate Christmas.
Redeeming God, in loss and gain, in heartache and immense joy, in stress and idleness, help me see your presence in my life. Amen