‘Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken.’ This is how Luke sets the scene for the birth of Jesus. Caesar Augustus held absolute power. When he decided that a census would be taken, everyone in the Empire had to obey. So Joseph and Mary set off for Bethlehem. Mary was pregnant and close to her time, but, poor and powerless, they had to do as they were told.
When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, they found no room at the inn, and so the baby Jesus was laid in a manger – a trough meant for holding animals’ food. The first to hear the news of the Saviour’s birth, and the first visitors, were not kings or princes but shepherds; working men who lived in the fields.
When the Son of God came into our world, he was homeless and ignored; born into a poor family in an occupied country. He would spend his whole life among the poor and the outcasts, while the wealthy and the powerful mostly rejected his teaching. In the end, Jesus became an outcast himself, driven out of the city to die on the Cross. The feast of Christmas reminds us to look into the faces of the people on the edges – those who are poor, powerless and ignored. That’s where we will see the face of Christ.