The Census

by Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott

…there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus … Luke 2:1 KJV

Every ten years, the United States takes a census of the people. This headcount is mandated by the U.S. Constitution and was first taken in 1790. Every household is asked to list the number of people living in that home and indicate the race of each person. According to a PDF file found at, reasons for the census include:

  • to determine the number of seats for each state in the House of Representatives,
  • to help decision-makers know how communities are changing, and
  • to provide information to affect funding to communities.

Census-taking happened in the Bible, so this is nothing new. In the Old Testament, God had Moses take a census of the people to see how to divide up the Promised Land equitably: larger tribes needed more land, smaller tribes needed less land. He also took a census of the men to see how large the army was.

The most notable census was the one we read about in Luke 2. I have the words of the first seven verses emblazoned on my memory from hearing them annually, not only at church, but also in public elementary school Christmas programs.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed… And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-7 (KJV)

Oh, my goodness, I can still see the narrator reading or reciting this from behind a podium at stage left as “Joseph” in his bathrobe and “Mary” in her mom’s head scarf and big muumuu covering the pillow belted to her tummy slowly entered from stage right. The couple knocked on each cardboard door only to meet other bathrobed boys who would roughly shoo them away announcing, “No room here.” Finally, they found one guy who at least let them stay in the stable. Turning her back to the audience, Mary would then “deliver” her son (by pulling out that pillow of course) and turn back to the audience cradling the baby doll wrapped up as the baby Jesus.

I understand now that that scene would not have been possible had it not been for the census. Caesar Augustus thought he was counting folks so he could levy more money, but God was behind the whole thing. God had to get Mary to Bethlehem because that’s where Jesus was supposed to be born. The lowliest possible birth would have only been possible if all the inns were full. After all, where else would a lamb be born but in a stable?

What can we learn from this? It’s simple: God can and will move every obstacle, reorder every circumstance, and even restructure societal order to work out and bring to pass His plans for our lives. All we need to do is our part; God is well able to handle all of the rest.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: “Live significantly!” That’s the inspiring message of Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott, award-winning author, editor, agent, engaging speaker, and licensed minister. Author of 12 books, and associated with several prestigious organizations such as AWSA, ACE, and, Sharon is also co-director of the WCCW conference. She is founder/CEO of AuthorizeMe® Consulting, Coaching, & Editing Firm and Literary Agency.

Sharon’s latest release, A Woman God Can Bless, walks through the house of your life with you and Jesus. This book will help you ease open the doors of old patterns of behavior, ingrained habits, and accepted dispositions with which you’ve grown accustomed. Within these pages you will find gentle prompts that will help you let the Lord remodel those closed rooms by redesigning your thinking and behavior to line up with His will for how you should then live.

Join the conversation: How does knowing God has every circumstance in hand encourage you?

4 thoughts on “The Census

  1. What a sweet picture of the Christmas plays and the important reason why we immortalize the story with a childlike faith. Thanks, Dr. Sharon.


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