The Census at Bethlehem is an oil-on-panel by the Flemish Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in 1566.

Today we speak of something I spent my career trying to understand ---taxes.  As Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying LONG AGO--

"In this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes."

My response to any panicking tax client was always, "They don't want to pay for you to be in jail, they just want your money."  Taxes are a part of life---on so many levels.  Yes, the government will take a part of the resources we earn--and for that we enjoy the privileges of living in our great country.    Live or visit a third world country for a time and you will quickly learn the depths of the luxury we live in the midst of.  AND in the good old USA, you also have the freedom to complain about how the money that is being taken is being spent.  I am having to resist the temptation to go off on a tangent at this point.  That is NOT the point.  The point is history is filled with examples of taxes.

During Advent, we remember the Emperor Caesar Augustus and his minion, Quirinius, Governor of Syria, who were instrumental in getting Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.  Fascinated by history, I never cease to be amazed at those who in the moment played a huge role in setting into motion the actual big moments in history.  At the time, we all would think the one ruling us--governing us would be the main character in the story.  I have read enough historical fiction to tell you---this often is not the case.  So it was that first Christmas.  For the prophesy to be fulfilled, Mary, who was ready to give birth, and Joseph had to be persuaded to travel the 90 miles to Bethlehem.  NOW--when I was full term with my babies-I could barely move from the couch to the kitchen.  I was still walking, but it was more of a slow waddle.  For someone to convince me I should walk or ride 90 miles in those last days would have been nigh onto impossible.  AND YET, God used Caesar and Quirinius to summon the young couple to Bethlehem  so that the prophesy would be fulfilled.  I am reminded of Pharaoh and this scripture,

"For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I have raised you up,

that I might show my power in you,

and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.' "

Romans 9:17

Yes, God can take the unsuspecting and use them for His good purposes.  Come to Bethlehem and pay some taxes---and not only is the prophecy fulfilled, but the plan of man's redemption begins as God said it would.  In the moment , we always feel the taxes are the bottom line.  In most cases, the taxes are only a vehicle ---a subplot to a much larger story.  So it was that very first Christmas.  God's perfect plan was worked out to perfection--while using those who had no clue they were being used.  God can even use censuses and taxes to accomplish a far greater purpose.  Thanking God His ways are so much deeper and complex than I could ever imagine.

"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and linage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child."

Luke 2:1-5


  1. It never ceases to amaze me how God takes what first appears as random acts, and fills them with His good purposes. Wonderful reflection, Lulu. Blessings!

    1. We will never see the true beauty of the tapestry until we see Jesus, but I love the anticipation.
      Blessings, Martha!


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