“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 their own town to register.” – Luke 2:1-3
They’re the opening lines of Luke’s account of Christ’s birth, and while I typically skim over them to get to the “good” part of the story, as I sit cozily on my couch, 35 weeks pregnant and approaching Christmas, I can’t help think about the inconvenience of being counted, were I Mary.
I haven’t been particularly nesting this pregnancy, but I also haven’t been straying far from home. In fact, I’m debating a 4 hour trip to Atlanta this weekend to see Amy Grant in concert (!!!) just for the sheer fact that leaving home at the end of pregnancy is a scary thought. The “what ifs” seeming to outweigh the “probably won’ts.” But Mary and Joseph didn’t really have a choice, so they packed their bags, saddled their donkey (bless) and traveled the miles required to be counted. Just an ordinary couple totaling a measly “2” in Caesar Augustus’ count of the world.
Surely Mary’s plans didn’t include participating in a census and then giving birth in a stable. Surely her expectations as the chosen womb housing the Son of God were a little… if not grander, then, at least, comfier. But God wasn’t just concerned about the world counting Mary and Joseph. Instead, He knew His chosen two could be counted ON.
He knew that His faithful servants had a role to play that far surpassed abiding by a country’s census law. He knew that their parts in His grand design were being counted ON by all of humanity coming ahead of them. His blueprint included them being faceless among the throngs traveling the same road, so that they could land in the extraordinary scene that He had painted for them at the fall of Eden.
Bethlehem probably wasn’t on their list of first, second or third best-case scenarios for the birth of a heavenly King. But it was the only option for the King reigning above, and He was counting ON them.
Maybe you’re astride a donkey, heading down a road to a place you never fathomed for your future. Maybe you’re laboring inside a stable that feels too cold, too desolate, too wrong for the size of the promise you thought was being delivered to you. Maybe you’re feeling like a nameless number in the crowd whose participation doesn’t matter all that much anyway.
I don’t believe that. You may not be carrying the Savior in your womb, but the stage God has set out in front of you may be too uniquely covered in the breath of the Divine Planner for you to plan or imagine on your own. Maybe your Bethlehem… the scene of your greatest deliverance… is waiting at the end of the road you’re currently on. And maybe while you’re in the midst of the inconvenience of being simply counted, God is simply smiling, eagerly knowing that you are more than just a number… you are the one that He is counting ON.