Journey to the Manger: Caesar Augustus

Daddy, Lauren and Grandma work to count their M&Ms in our census.

Daddy, Lauren and Grandma work to count their M&Ms in our census.

Today we took part in the census ordered by Caesar Augustus on our Journey to the Manger.

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

– Luke 2:1-3

Caesar Augustus

Caesar Augustus

God used the leader of the Roman world to fulfill His promises. When Caesar Augustus issued a decree for the people of his empire to be counted in order to assess taxes, he was thinking about his riches and power, not God’s long-awaited Messiah. Every person was required to go back to his hometown for the census, including Joseph and his betrothed wife Mary. So, this young couple packed their few worldly belongings and headed toward Bethlehem. Micah the prophet foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem hundreds of years before this census. God moved in the mind of an ungodly Caesar to bring His Son to the City of David, where Jesus made His humble entrance into the world He would save.

To help us understand in a bite-sized way the undertaking of a census, we held our own. We split a large M&M bag in half, and assigned teams to begin the count. With grandparents joining us for the day, we separated the colors first to segment the counting, just like each person had to go to their own hometown in the Roman census. We pretended that all the blue M&Ms were in Jerusalem, the oranges were Bethlehem, and the rest of the colors were other towns. Once all the colors were counted, we then added all the numbers together for our total census count.

Caesar Augustus cared about the overall numbers in order to feed his ego and live in luxury from the taxes of the multitudes. Caesar wanted to rule the masses, and Joseph and Mary must have felt so small and unimportant in the bustling crowds on their journey to Bethlehem. But, God saw them. He was with them, literally wrapped up in Mary’s womb.

God cares about each person. He sees you and me. He journeys with us. We are not alone, and we are never lost in a crowd to God. God doesn’t hold censuses, but He does know the number of hairs on each head. We are not insignificant. We are so incredibly valuable, Jesus paid our ransom in full on the cross.

Papa and Jackson tally the final count for our M&M census.

Papa and Jackson tally their count for our M&M census.

Click here to learn more about celebrating Advent with your family this Christmas, including access to a Scripture plan, free downloads and activity ideas. For more on Journey to the Manger, an advent experience from Focus on the Family, visit the Thriving Family website.

Journey to the Manger: Micah

Lauren hold up the Red Light sign that holds the prophet Micah's message to the people of his day: Stop doing bad things!

Lauren holds up the Red Light sign that includes the prophet Micah’s message to the people of his day: Stop doing bad things!

Today we met Micah the prophet on our Journey to the Manger.

Micah the prophet

Micah the prophet

Micah had a difficult message from God for the Israelite people. His nation was very near to being overrun by another kingdom because the Israelites had turned away from God. They were doing bad things, treating each other with disrespect and ignoring God’s laws. Micah pleaded with the people to repent of their sins and turn to God. Though the people continued to sin, God still showed His people great mercy. Through Micah, God shared His plan to one day restore Israel through the coming Messiah, who would be born in Bethlehem.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

– Micah 5:2

The kids and I played Red Light Green Light to reinforce Micah’s message to the people. Each time we turned to the red side, we said, “Stop doing bad!” When we switched to the green side we called out, “Start doing good!” If a person didn’t stop right away, we chose to be merciful, just as God is with us. After a few turns, Jackson and Lauren got into a fight about who would hold the stick, with both kids yelling and shoving. After a separation time out, the Red Light Green Light game became personal. Both children knew they needed to stop doing bad and start doing good. Both prayed for God’s forgiveness and mercy, and then apologized to each other.

God’s mercy is great and His love, unending. God longs for us to turn away from our sins and follow Him. He delays punishment so we have an opportunity to repent. God loves us in the midst of our sin, and just like the Israelites, God gives us hope when we don’t deserve it. Jesus didn’t come because we had it all together. He came because we needed Him desperately.

Jackson works on his puzzle page for Day 4 of Journey to the Manger.

Jackson works on his puzzle page for Day 4 of Journey to the Manger.

Click here to learn more about celebrating Advent with your family this Christmas, including access to a Scripture plan, free downloads and activity ideas. For more on Journey to the Manger, an advent experience from Focus on the Family, visit the Thriving Family website.