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.

Help me not to doubt!

Yesterday, Jackson and I headed to the doctor for his last round of shots before starting preschool this fall. He was on edge all day, and even with promises of M&Ms he still was dreading the encounter (and that’s saying something!).

Jackson is holding his arm where he received one of his school booster vaccines

As we waited for the nurse to come in and administer the vaccines, Jackson became more and more nervous. So, again I explained to him that Jesus was right there in the room with us and He would be with Jackson the whole time and help him while he was getting his shots. We bowed our heads together, and Jackson prayed, “Jesus, please be with me and help me with my shots. Amen.”

The nurse came in with reinforcements, because she remembered what happened when Jackson received his initial school boosters. Jackson hopped up on the exam table, and we all got ready for the vaccines. Just before the nurse went to apply rubbing alcohol to his arm, Jackson proclaimed to us all, “Remember, God is with me right now!”

I was so proud. 🙂

Then, the nurse touched his arm to rub the spot that would be pricked, and Jackson lost it. He launched into a full-out panic, complete with body convulsions, screaming, crying and clinging for dear life to my neck. And, that was just his reaction to the rubbing alcohol.

We managed to get through it, and Jackson stopped crying when he received a Thomas and Lightning McQueen sticker for his bravery.

Jackson remembered God was with him, and trusted Jesus to help him. But when it came time for the shot, he still panicked.

Have you been there? You know that God is with you – He promised He would be. Yet in the moment of decision or action, you can’t think straight, your heart is pounding through your chest, no words form, and you get out of there as quick as possible. Whatever the circumstances, you felt like your faith failed you.

In Mark chapter 9, we are brought to an intense scene where Jesus’ followers are trying to cast out a demon possessing a young man, and failing. Emotions are running high, the situation is escalating and about to tip out of control. That is when Jesus enters and intervenes.

Out of the crowd, one man answered Him, “Teacher, I brought my son to You. He has a spirit that makes him unable to speak. Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I asked Your disciples to drive it out, but they couldn’t.”

He replied to them, “You unbelieving generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to Me.” So they brought him to Him. When the spirit saw Him, it immediately convulsed the boy. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. “How long has this been happening to him?” Jesus asked his father.

“From childhood,” he said. “And many times it has thrown him into fire or water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion  on us and help us.”

Then Jesus said to him, ” ‘If You can?’ Everything is possible to the one who believes.”

Immediately the father of the boy cried out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”

The father believed Jesus could heal his son. He was desperate to believe and for his son to be whole again. He cries out, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.” I believe in you Jesus, but I need your help to keep it together! I need you to make me truly believe and trust You! God, intervene! God, save him. I can’t believe in my own strength. I need you!

Jesus did help the father believe, and He did cast out the demon and heal the son.

Jackson believed God was with him, and Jesus helped my son through his unbelief while receiving his vaccines.

We waited in the lobby for 10 minutes just to make sure there were no reactions, and in between chomping on M&Ms, Jackson prayed.

“Jesus, thank you for being with me and helping me with my shots. Amen.”

Where does your faith need strengthened today? Cry out to Jesus and confess, “I do believe! Help my unbelief.”