Pastor’s viewpoint: Dec. 30, 2017
According to the Census Bureau’s news release just last week, Idaho is our fastest growing state … Idaho?! That would never have been my first or even 40th guess! The Gem State was follow by Nevada, Utah, and Washington. Western states filled seven of the top 10 states. The West and South were the big winners while the Midwest and Northeast were the big losers. (The latest census was in 2010, so these are updates for 2016-17.)
And although the Western region, as a whole, grew more than the South, Western cities only grew 7.3 percent while cities in the South grew 9.4 percent. And once more, the fastest growing city would not be in my list of 1, 000 guesses … Conroe, Texas? In fact, four of the five fastest growing cities in America are in Texas; the other three are Frisco, McKinney, and Georgetown.
Only one state, Idaho, grew more than 2 percemt, 25 grew .5-2.0 percent, 16 grew 0-.4 percent, and 8 (9 if we count Puerto Rico) lost population. Wyoming lost 1 percent of its population, the highest loss of any state. Puerto Rico filed for bankruptcy last May and lost 69,000 people … not counting those who left the island during and after Hurricane Maria in September. And Illinois lost 33,000 people due in large part to a $250 billion pension debt and a recent 30 percent tax increase.
Georgia, where I live, added 115,000 people, growing 1.1 percent, and becoming the seventh fastest growing state and the fastest growing city in Georgia is (drum roll) … Grayson?!
“ At that time Emperor Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Roman Empire.  When this first census took place, Quirinius was the governor of Syria.  Everyone, then, went to register himself, each to his own hometown.
 Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, the birthplace of King David. Joseph went there because he was a descendant of David.  He went to register with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant,  and while they were in Bethlehem, the time came for her to have her baby.  She gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in cloths and laid him in a manger-there was no room for them to stay in the inn.” (Luke 2:1 – 7)
There is a critical problem in the nativity story; Jesus was, according to the Old Testament prophecies, going to be born in Bethlehem. Yet his mother and “father” lived in Nazareth … and then, just prior to Jesus’ birth, the emperor “just happened” to order a census and the family moved temporarily to Bethlehem where, because of the census, they were forced into a stable where Jesus was born and laid in a manger. And if you think that’s a great story, you should hear the rest of it!
Charles “Buddy” Whatley, is a retired United Methodist pastor serving Woodland and Bold Springs UMC, and with Mary Ella, a missionary to the Navajo Reservation in Arizona.