“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world would be registered. This census first took place when while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife” (Luke 2:1-5).
The world hasn’t changed much. At least not politically. There’s always been tug of wars between the oppressor and the oppressed. Kings, czars, kaisers, prime ministers, presidents, emperors and caesars view the extent of their realm and look over fences or great walls and say, “I want more.” In the days of Israel, at the time of Jesus’ birth, Rome wanted more, and that “more” included Israel. The domination of Rome was rather unique. They allowed a conquered people to keep their religion as long as they also paid homage to Caesar and also paid taxes.
Historians tell us Rome’s compounded tax load could stack up to 60-70%, making it nearly impossible to scratch out a living on any land, so those properties were often abandoned as families went on the road searching for security and jobs everywhere. Abandoned farms, orchards and fishing grounds were non-productive. So Rome set this decree. The registration was far more than a head count. It was an order from Rome that all citizens MUST return to their own land and be accounted for, and once there, they were to work those lands and pay their taxes, tributes and tariffs into this system of oppression.
So the roads were full of the oppressed, trudging back to hopeless situations, and that moving mass of humanity included a pregnant Mary and her merciful, carpenter husband, Joseph. But God was at work here, moving them to the prophesied village of Jesus’ birth at just the right time so that one day, “In His name, all oppression shall cease.”