In a sense, we’re all born into this world looking for our real home. This season reminds us of where to look.
I suppose Caesar Augustus might have been home one night when he rolled over in bed, probably sleeping fitfully due to acid reflux, snored in and muttered, “Ta-a-axes,” snored out and sputtered, “Mo-o-ore.” He didn’t really remember much about it in the morning; he just felt that he’d awakened with a plan.
More taxes. Maybe his many wars devoted to further promoting his vast imperial aspirations were becoming expensive. America is often referred to as an imperialist nation by its enemies. Phooey. As columnist Charles Krauthammer once observed, it’s a strange sort of imperialism that no sooner enters a struggle in a foreign country than in the next breath it’s looking for an exit strategy (sensible or not).
America, imperial? Nuts. Rome, imperial? Oh, yes.
And, yeah, being serious about expanding an empire is expensive. Was that why Rome’s emperor was dreaming of more denarii? Or was he just a flashier than usual politician but, at his heart, still the ordinary kind who has very few original ideas but has this very unoriginal one regularly? More taxes.
A real historian could probably tell you. I am not a real historian and am thus speaking, as usual, off the cuff and likely out of my head.
In any case, Caesar Augustus needed to count heads to fatten the tax rolls and thus filch more shekels from the populace.
So some serious counting was already underway when Joseph and Mary found themselves in Bethlehem waiting to be counted. They’d already counted to nine months. No obstetrician required for that.
Mary needed to avoid sharp objects. It didn’t take our presently popular skin tight pregnancy fashions (“Oh, this makes me look so fat!” Duh. Donchathink pregnancy and plumping up in the midsection kinda go together? And did you really think that shrink wrap as a fashion statement would be slimming?) . . . No, it didn’t take modern fashions to make it clear that Mary and Joseph were now counting hours (just a few) and minutes, not days, to launch.
Counting heads. Counting tax money. Counting contractions.
Maybe it should be no surprise when we find that at least one Bethlehem innkeeper was counting rooms available. The math was easy. None. He’d punched the button and the neon NO in front of VACANCY on his sign was glowing gloomily.
And that’s how Mary and Joseph ended up in a stable, and a manger became the crib of the little King whose universe dwarfed Caesar’s empire.
And that’s how, as wordsmith G. K. Chesterton poemed, to go really home, we ourselves go “[T]o an older place than Eden / And a taller town than Rome. . . . / To the place where God was homeless / And all men are at home.”
Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.