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Poor and Homeless?

I am amazed how, at this time of the year, some people want to use Joseph and Mary, from the Christmas story, as poster children for the poor, the homeless, and the unemployed. These are categories that Joseph and Mary just do not fit into. Would you allow me a couple of minutes to explain?


The text of Luke 2 makes it clear that Joseph and Mary were traveling from their home in Nazareth to Bethlehem because of a Roman mandate. Caesar decided to take a census of the Roman Empire, no doubt to better get a handle on his tax base. Ordered to return to the town of their forefathers and register for the census, Joseph and Mary set out for Bethlehem, because they were of the house and linage of David. And little did Caesar or his minions care that Mary was well into the last trimester of her pregnancy.


Joseph and Mary were also not homeless or poor. They had lived in Nazareth where Joseph was employed as a carpenter. He did, however, set his hometown business aside for the trip to Bethlehem. A carpenter in that day was a mainstay of a community. He was engaged in making farming equipment, furniture, and many other items that people of the day needed for their lives.


More than likely, Joseph practiced his trade in Bethlehem for up to two years. For Matthew tells us in his gospel, that when the Magi arrived, Jesus was no longer an infant, but a toddler and that the family was not living in a stable but in a house. His trade would also serve him well when he was warned by God to flee Bethlehem to escape Herod’s murderous wrath. The next chapter of their lives would be spent in Egypt, after which they returned to Galilee and to their hometown of Nazareth.


No, Joseph and Mary were not poor, destitute, or homeless. They were the victims of world events that mandated each move that they made, Nazareth to Bethlehem, Bethlehem to Egypt, Egypt back to Nazareth, every intricate detail carefully orchestrated by God, to fulfill hundreds of years of Messianic prophecies.

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