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. … Joseph went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. – Luke 2:1-2 & 5 (NRSV)
In those days, households were required to register with their provinces for the purpose of being taxed by the Roman Empire. Some complied. Some resisted. Some fled. Some revolted against a headcount that served only to extract money from oppressed communities.
In these days, adults working in the U.S. are required to register with the Social Security Administration for the purpose of paying taxes. For some adults, compliance begins with the registration of a Social Security Number. For others who are barred from registration, non-compliance is necessary for working and living.
In these days, photo identification cards are frequently required to purchase prescriptions, pick up packages, drive a motor vehicle, or pay with a check. Many comply. Some resist, as photo IDs represent an infraction upon their religious beliefs.
In these days, proof of vaccination can be required to work, to attend school, to travel, to dine or to dance. Some are complying. Some are resisting. Some are seeking exemption.
In these days, as in those days, required registrations shape our lives—no matter if we comply or resist.
In those days, as in these days, God’s work within, through, around, and beyond us continues without fail—no matter our registration status.
God Most Holy, God Made Flesh, navigating all these social regulations and government registrations is a daily spiritual exercise. On this holy eve, we wait in expectation for the Miracle that unfolds within—yet is unhindered by—the demands of this world.
Rachel Hackenberg serves on the national staff for the United Church of Christ. She is the author of Writing to God and the co-author of Denial Is My Spiritual Practice, among other titles. Her blog is Faith and Water.