Part 10 of a series counting down to Christmas and our Messiah’s birth.
These days, I define a difficult journey by flight delays, lost bags, and rude passengers. Airplane seats aren’t my favorite either. It can be down right brutal just getting from here to there and back again. Bless my heart.
Our Christmas couple, young and betrothed, were facing a journey. It was made necessary by Caesar Augustus who decreed an empire wide census. Each man returned to his ancestral home to register, for Joseph, that was Bethlehem, the town of David. It was a journey made at least annually, to observe Passover and the Feasts in Jerusalem. Bethlehem lay eight miles below Jerusalem.
They headed southeast, circumventing Samaria, then south along the Jordan River. At Jericho, they went west, up into the mountains, then south to Bethlehem. It was 90 miles and Mary was 9 months pregnant.
With a donkey or camel, travelers could make 20 miles a day. We don’t know if Joseph owned any, but given Mary’s condition, he would have borrowed one. Normally, it took four days, but was for them closer to eight. They could stay in homes at night, given the sacred honor of Jewish hospitality. But they might have camped out. Joseph would pack food and water, warm clothes, and other necessities. Daytime reached the mid 50’s with low 40’s at night. December nights could drop to freezing, and possibly have freezing drizzle, since December was the rainy season. It was a difficult trip for Mary and Joseph.
I wonder what they talked about; probably it was all about the baby. Did they discuss the Messianic prophecies and their son’s future? Had they grown accustomed to Mary carrying the Son of David? Did Mary talk about decorating the nursery, or adding a room to their house? Did they have the slightest inkling of what was about to happen? Could they imagine the Magi’s visit, or Herod’s murderous threats, or escaping to Egypt?
I think of the Bethlehem journey as quick and easy; just part of the warm and magical Christmas experience. But it was more likely painful, difficult, and dangerous. His birth was announced by angels, witnessed by shepherds, and honored by wise men. It was immersed in the light of an eastern star. But before all of that, Mary and Joseph had to get to Bethlehem.
The Savior was born to courageous and determined people. Emmanuel was about to arrive, but his arrival happened because of that brave young couple. Our spiritual blessings began with them; for there is no Christmas without Joseph and Mary.