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.

We count

Our census ornament

Our census ornament

Christmas Countdown Day 12 focused on the census. As part of a worldwide Roman census, Joseph took Mary, now great with child, on a road trip to Bethlehem. They were two in the midst of thousands upon thousands traveling across the countryside to obey the law that they be counted. As they passed through the crowds, trying to get to Joseph’s hometown, they must have felt small, unimportant and alone. Like trying to find a marble in the midst of a jar of rice, they were sifted as they made their way to a town where, as it turns out, every door was closed to them except a dirty stable. Though they may have felt like just a number to the Roman empire, they were the two counted and chosen by God to be His One and Only Son’s earthly parents. We count, just as Mary and Joseph did, in God’s eyes. We are not a number in all of humanity, we are his precious children. Tonight we made census jars. We dyed rice green, let it dry, and filled baby food jars. Then we placed four marbles, representing our family, into the jar, sealed it, and shook it up. We imagined what it was like for Mary and Joseph to travel across the country to Bethlehem, feeling like two in the midst of so many. We thanked God for seeing them and taking care of them, and for loving us that way, too. Then, we found the marbles in our jars by shifting the rice around.

Lauren spreads our her green rice to dry while Jackson watches.

Lauren spreads our her green rice to dry while Jackson watches.