In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
Quirinius was not the nicest guy.
Ambitious. Well-heeled. Driven.
He was born in a suburb of Rome to an average family. Quirinius pointed his drive for position and power into the venue of military service, building a name for himself in several key battles and triumphs in Roman conquests. He positioned himself as advisor to those close to Augustus Caesar. Following the removal of Herod Archelaus as the governor over Syria, Quirinius took his place. A political climber, he married and divorced and married and divorced, using marriages as a means of stepping up the ladder of power. One of his marriages was particularly tabloid sensational, replete with accusations of poisoning and promiscuity.
But now, he governed a large region for Caesar Augustus, secure that he had built a name for himself. And his Caesar had ordered a census to be taken of the whole known Roman world. And he would make sure it happened in the region over which he was to command.
Because it was in the issuing of this census that Quirinius's name even rings a familiar tone in our ears. Roman rule existed over the Syrian region for generations. Governors came and went. But it is Quirinius and then Pilate thirty-three years later whose names are recorded in the best-selling book of all time.
But you, Bethlehem, Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.
It is this census that brings Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem, the hometown of King David, the adopted turf of Ruth, the place of the tomb of Rachel. Joseph returns with his betrothed to be counted in the Roman census and there she gives birth to the child who will ultimately turn the world on its ear.
Quirinius's authority over this region has been used for the accomplishment of prophecy.
In Quirinius's view, his military exploits and cocktail party networking were all to the end of achievement within Roman power. The dramas, the allegiances, the scramble to create notoriety, to make sure he left a mark in what was at the time the biggest game in town.
Little did he know that his greatest fame would come as a small side note as a contemporary to a most important time.
The time of a census. A census that would be a tool to complete prophecy. A census that would bring a simple carpenter and his knocked-up girlfriend back to the family land, to have their heads counted.
The Lord can use anything to accomplish His plans. A power-hungry man. A teenage girl. A baby. A cross.
The potpourri recipe of grace.