“In those days, Caesar Augustus made a law. It required that a list be made of everyone in the whole Roman world. It was the first time a list was made of the people while Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone went to their own town to be listed. So Joseph went also. He went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea. That is where Bethlehem, the town of David, was. Joseph went there because he belonged to the family line of David. He went there with Mary to be listed. Mary was engaged to him. She was expecting a baby.” Luke 2:1-5 NIrV

So who loves paying taxes? I can hear all the cheering and clapping as I’m writing. Paying taxes may not be the most enjoyable task we are required to complete, but it is necessary. In the United States a census is conducted every ten years, and at the time of Jesus, the people were required to take a census too. It forced everyone to go to his or her own town to register, which is why Joseph and Mary made the trip to Bethlehem. Unfortunately, the trip was unavoidable.

This particular trip is significant because Joseph and Mary did not set their alarms on their iPhones before going to sleep the night before. When they woke up the next morning they didn’t get in their Honda Accord and drive to Bethlehem. This was around a 10-day trip of walking or riding a donkey they were embarking on. Don’t forget that Mary was also pregnant. Think about this…she was told by an angel that God was going to give her a baby before her wedding day, and now she has to take a 10-day trip with her fiancé to Bethlehem, and she could be giving birth any day now. Mary and Joseph trusted God though, and were going to do the right thing, no matter the cost.

I know I have had times in my life when I think I’m doing what God wants me to do. Then I ask myself, so why aren’t things going smoother in my life? I’m sure that Joseph and Mary may have felt the same emotions as they faced surprise after surprise.

“While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born. She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. That’s because there was no guest room where they could stay.” Luke 2:6-7 NIrV

Joseph and Mary made it to Bethlehem safe and sound, but it was not an easy trip. You would think that because of everything this couple went through that God would have provided a nice room at the Hilton in Bethlehem. Think again…they didn’t even have a guest room for them to stay in. It’s not that God didn’t provide a place for them, but I would imagine a manger wasn’t the preferred room they may have hoped for. Jesus was born in a stable, wrapped in cloth, and then placed in a feeding trough. For being the King of the world, I thought for sure a Hilton was in the plans for the birthplace of our savior, don’t you? Even though it wasn’t our picture of perfection, God provided a place for their needs. It was a place adequate for the care of Jesus.

Mary and Joseph show us that following God, no matter the cost, is always the right thing to do. They also take it a step further and show us that having joy, even when things are difficult, is possible. When life gets tough, we have to cling to Jesus because our true joy must come from Him.

I remember a time in middle school where things became extremely difficult for my family. My grandpa served our country in the United States Army. He was an incredible man that sacrificed so much to serve our country to protect our freedoms. I was 12 years old when he was admitted to the hospital in Wilmington. Over the next seven weeks his health declined extremely fast and he was in a lot a pain. After less than a month of being in the hospital, he passed away. 

It was not an easy season of life for my family or myself. We struggled with things happening so fast and not going our way, but we continued to fight for having joy because we knew our ultimate joy came from Christ alone. We had to cling to the fact that he was not suffering anymore here on this earth and we would see him again one day. Our joy was rooted in Christ, knowing that my grandpa was in heaven celebrating being with Him.

A few questions to reflect on:

  1. What circumstances make it hard for you to choose joy?
  2. When was a time you have replaced frustrations and things not going your way with the joy that comes from knowing God is in control?
  3. What is one thing you are thankful for today that gives you joy?

You are loved.