If all goes well, we plan to drive to Florida in the spring for a visit with my brother and sister-in-law. My cousin will accompany us and share the driving responsibilities, and we have already reserved rooms at a motel close to my relative’s house. I have the confirmation and photos of the accommodations, which include breakfast each morning.
When the departure date grows closer, I will pack our bags, have the mail held at the post office, and leave our itinerary with our family. There will be many lists made and hours of planning involved, but it will be nice to get away.
With so many people traveling during the holidays, it occurred to me that another journey was made nearly 2,000 years ago, and the circumstances were very different from those we now experience.
Joseph, of the House of David, in compliance with an order from Caesar for everyone to partake in a census, found himself forced to take his pregnant wife, Mary, to his birthplace of Bethlehem.
“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.” (Luke 2:1-5)
The distance of 90 miles from their home in Nazareth seems small by today’s standards, but they had no automobile, train, plane, or public transportation. That trip today would average an hour and a half, but for them it reportedly took four days to a week to travel that distance.
The journey began with their descent from the hills of Nazareth down into the smooth plains of the Jezreel Valley where many battles were waged, and Revelation tells us it is where the Battle of Armageddon will occur.
This easy leg of the journey probably took them a couple of days. Their rugged ascent from the valley, where there were hundreds of rows of olive trees, was perilous. There were thieves and wild animals to defend themselves against, and as Mary’s time grew closer, she became more uncomfortable. Riding on a donkey was not an easy thing to endure.
Joseph didn’t have fancy running shoes or athletic clothing. He wore sandals and a tunic as they walked about eight hours each day. There was no GPS to guide them, and each evening they sought water from a spring or a well along the way. It is believed that they stopped at Jacob’s Well in Sychar, where Jesus met the Samaritan woman more than 30 years later.
I suspect Mary and Joseph slept on the ground and cooked their meals by an open fire as there were no fast-food drive-ins or designated rest areas. Despite his constant care and reassurances as they traveled every day, Mary must have grown weary and discouraged, but she accepted this as all a part of God’s plan.
When they finally arrived in Bethlehem, they tried in vain to secure a room, but due to the influx of other travelers in the city, nothing was available. Desperately tired and in need of some sort of shelter, they accepted an offer to stay in a stable with animals for their roommates.
In this unlikely setting, Mary gave birth to the divine baby Jesus, laying him in a manger for his bed. “And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:6-7)
As I reflect on the journey that Joseph and Mary made, I want to make room for the Baby Jesus to come into my surroundings. I don’t want to put him in a stable and let him sleep on a bed of hay. I want him to have the best accommodations I can offer to him within my home and my heart.
“Come, Lord Jesus, come.”
Copyright © 2022 Mary Margaret Lambert