About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David's town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.
(Luke 2:1-5, The Message)
Where would you go, if the government ordered you to return to your ancestral home? And who would welcome you in?
One of my relatives has traced my paternal family line back to one John Dowsett, born in 1622 in Pleshey, Essex – which remained the family home for several generations of John’s descendents, before one moved to London. It is a place I’d never heard of until about six weeks ago (Pleshey, not London), let alone ever visited. Looking into it, I discover that there is a Retreat House there – a discovery that puts a smile on my lips…I don’t know that there are any Dowsetts in the village 400 years on, but I’d like to think there would at least be room for me there.
Pleshey was the site of a Norman castle, built in the wake of the Invasion of 1066, as William the Conqueror rewarded his knights with lands. The name derives from a French word meaning ‘intertwined,’ relating to the manner of construction used in building the castle. My story is somehow intertwined with that of John and his ancestors and descendants, as they pass through that place. And in another village, not far from another capital city, God’s story becomes intertwined with that of men and women, now no more than names in a record. At Bethlehem, the Son of Heaven is earthed.