And everyone went to their own town to register. Luke 2:3
Have you ever felt like things were out of your control? I wonder whether Joseph felt like things were out of his control. The details of the census required Joseph to return to his hometown. Joseph’s hometown was Bethlehem because “he belonged to the house and line of David” (Luke 2:4).
From an earthly perspective, the timing was not ideal. Mary was late into her pregnancy. I wonder what Joseph thought about a trip to Bethlehem at this time. But things were out of his control.
When things are out of my control, I tend to start worrying and to stop trusting God. But when things are out of my control, they are still in God’s control.
God was working through history to make sure that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. God had worked through the decrees of earthly rulers before. In the Old Testament, when his people had repeatedly rebelled against him, God used Nebuchadnezzar to chastise his people by taking them into exile (1 Kings 25:1, 21b). God used King Cyrus of Persia to send his people home from captivity (Ezra 1:1-4). And now God worked through a decree of Caesar Augustus to ensure that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Things were out of Joseph’s control, but they were still in God’s control.
Looking back on it, we can often see that God was working through events. It’s harder to see that while we’re going through it. But when things seem out of your control, remember that they are still in God’s control. And just as God worked through events to bring Joseph to his hometown, God is working through the events in your life to bring you home, home to heaven.
God worked it out so that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem to be your Savior. God worked it out so that you would hear his Word and believe it. And God uses the events in your life to call you to keep coming back to his Word, where he brings you closer to him, until someday he brings you to your true home, your home in heaven.
Lord God, you brought Joseph to his hometown so that your Son would be born in Bethlehem. Bring me ever closer to you through your Word so that you might bring me to my home in heaven. Amen.
Rev. Daniel Waldschmidt serves Martin Luther College as a professor of theology and Greek.