“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” Luke 2:1-2

It was my first census, and I was nervous. I wanted to get it right. After all, Caesar Augustus is not patient with mistakes. So everyone—the entire Roman world—had to be counted and taxed. Every single one.

We realized the most accurate way would be for all men to report to their own hometowns with their families. After all, people are known in their hometowns, a large family gathering would be a time for celebration, and relatives would know if all family members were present. And if anyone was not present, relatives would most likely be able to account for anyone missing.

Of course, births were times of great joy. Families gathered in the homes where the children were born to celebrate, with the parents, this new life they had been given. Again, these gatherings would provide ample opportunity to count families and to insure that not a single person was missed. I also decided to verify our numbers by counting any temple sacrifices made to honor newborns. Imagine my surprise when the numbers did not add up.

One particular addition stood out to one of my census takers. A family came to the temple to make offerings and said that their son had not been counted because he had been born in a stable instead of a house. They were surrounded by a city full of relatives, yet they could find no family to share their joy? And even if they had been in a different town, their own Jewish religion teaches them to welcome strangers, so why should this husband and wife have to give birth alone in a stable?

My census taker thinks it was because they were not husband and wife. They were promised to one another, but she was already in her ninth month. Maybe their family was ashamed. Maybe their relatives didn’t want the scandal. Maybe they shouldn’t be seen with those so obviously outside of God’s will.

No matter. This boy was counted. And as a humble servant of the Kingdom, when he is old enough, he will pay his share…and then some.

Rev. Steve Cothran has been FBC’s associate pastor to students and families since 2001. Steve and Nancy are the parents of Raleigh, Robyn and Marina.