In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register. 4So 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.
Commentary: The Roman practice of counting those under their rule was anathema to Jews, who believed that such counting was faithless. And, of course, there was a tax that had to be paid at the time of enrollment. The distance of over 70 miles would have been arduous for any woman in the last stages of pregnancy, especially since the text does not specify the donkey on which Mary is usually pictured. There is also a problem with v.2 as Quirinius was not appointed to the Syrian post until 6 CE. But the scene set by the gospel writer is almost painfully modern; this very day, there are probably pregnant women wearily looking for shelter in the midst of government mandates in Syria.
To Ponder: When have you had to deal with a bureaucracy? If you had to name one place that is your family’s hometown, where would it be?