In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
(Church in Wales lectionary, from New Revised Standard version)
It was the custom in the Roman Empire for everyone to be registered, usually at eight year intervals, both for the purpose of making sure that men were enrolled to do military service, and also to make sure that the taxation rolls were accurate. Jews were not expected to do military service, but were expect to pay tax. The latter was hated since they felt they should only pay Temple tax.
So we see Joseph taking Mary to his home town of Bethlehem, where she gives birth to Jesus and places him in an animal's manger, because they can find nowhere to stay. This tiny child was to become the adult Jesus who came knocking on people's hearts to receive admittance, and who finally rejected, found a home on a cross.
Today, with the pandemic and all its consequences raging, he knocks again at our hearts! Will we let Him in?
we pray for all in our world who are caught up
in the terrible consequences of the pandemic
for the hungry and the homeless;
for business owners at their wits end;
for children who have no presents;
for families with huge overdrafts;
and for all who have no hope.
Come and heal our world,
and may we open our
hearts to you this day.