We’ve all recently experienced the lockdown due to coronavirus and are still having to adapt our lives and behaviours to follow the regulations and stop the spread of the virus. This has resulted in a lot of inconvenience, loss of income for some and some resentment at what people regard as the right to choose what we do. This was of course imposed by our Government, which we elected and will, in due course, have the opportunity to re-elect or remove.

The Christmas story in Luke Chapter 2 tells us of another event which caused similar disruption to normal life. Joseph was a carpenter, so self-employed and dependent on working for an income and not that well off, we are told later in the story that he and Mary offered the sacrifice of poor people at the Temple. They were living in Nazareth, in Galilee, when the Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken of the whole Roman Empire. Since this required people to register in their home town, it required Joseph and Mary, who was heavily pregnant, to travel to Bethlehem, a journey of some 90 miles which would have taken between 7 and 9 days, even with a donkey which isn’t mentioned in Luke’s account. This must have been really annoying for them, particularly as they had no say in the Government, as they were being ruled by an empire which had invaded and occupied their land. It no doubt caused physical and economic hardship for them and it also disrupted all the plans they had made for the birth of their baby. He was now to be born in a stable, as there were no rooms left in the inns due to the number of visitors to Bethlehem.

However, with hindsight we can look back and see that it was part of God’s plan, he had foretold that the birth of the Messiah would be in Bethlehem through the prophet Micah some 700 years earlier. Sometimes we can’t understand the events happening around us, which disrupt our plans and lives, but we can trust that God knows what is going on and that he is in control in the long term. Jeremiah Chapter 29, verse 11 tells us God has “plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas, even if it can’t be the same as “normal”.

Alan Evans, Pastrow Family of Churches