on the road to Bethlehem

We left off with Joseph & Mary on the long trek to Bethlehem.

Still on the road…

I wonder if Mary asked,  “Are we there yet?!” as her womb started sending signals it was full and had had enough.

I wonder how sick of leading the donkey and being on his feet all day Joseph was?

How the outdoors only reminded them both of how much they wanted to be back home already, resting indoors. Census over and done.

Instead, the road continued to stretch out in front of them, still needing to be traveled.

Can you relate?

I often grow tired of my daily walk.  I fail to see the purpose in endlessly folding laundry, constantly washing dishes, ceaselessly cleaning the house, just to do it all over again.
The familiar, the routine, the repetition. Dreary with doing the same jobs, traveling the same roads over and over…

Not all that different than finding ourselves on the road to Bethlehem again.

Except this year, I am determined to not take the Advent story for granted.

Having been raised with it, it can seem like a pointless journey to take again each December, save for this fact:

The arrival of Jesus changed everything.  God reached down, touched an average woman and folded Jesus into her womb, to slowly grow until He was to emerge and meet His creation face to face, God with us.

In the familiar, the routine, the repetition, we find we are no longer alone.  We have been met in our humanity, in the dreary drudgery of our daily to do list. By the God who wants us to be known, embrace us in our hurts, bind our brokenness, restore our energy, guide our steps, helping us move beyond the words and enter the story.

You see, God knew the road we were traveling was a dead end without His intervention.

The road to Bethlehem was always part of God’s plan. 

For Jesus was meant to be born in David’s city, fulfilling the promise God gave David so many generations before- the Deliverer was coming.

But first, He needs to be delivered into the world.

Picture weary Mary, struggling to get comfortable in her last weeks of her pregnancy…whether on the donkey, or lying down.

See Joseph limping from the rough terrain, shoulders sore from guiding the occasionally stubborn donkey, stomach rumbling from the excursion.

The road to Bethlehem was a labour of love. 

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Not only through Joseph and Mary’s obedience, nor Jesus’ impending delivery…

God labored to bring Advent about: the dream, the decision, the preparation, the effort & the teamwork within the Trinity- all designed to collide with humanity at the end of the road to Bethlehem.

God had every right to be weary of us. Selfish sinful flesh. Wanting our own way. Discontent until we could connect with our Creator, helpless to make the changes we needed in ourselves to make it happen.

So God decided to make it happen for us. To make the way for us.

The #AdventuresinAdvent are only part of the way to the big finale. 

I can only hope that like me, God is stirring up the desire to see His story, His gift to us all, in a fresh light. To be struck with the wonder awaiting us at the end of the road ahead.

census honeymoon

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

Poor Joseph. No sooner has Mary come back from visiting Elizabeth, the angel told him she was carrying the Messiah & to marry her, which he did, and they have just settled into their new home, than the government calls for a mandatory road trip.

In those days, a census meant you had to travel to your documented ancestral home…in Joseph’s case, Bethlehem, as he was of David’s lineage.

Not going was not an option. 

When the Romans said go, you had to go.  The good news? The Romans had built up the main roads, which likely cut back a bit on the rough terrain. The bad news? Mary was getting close to the end of her pregnancy.

But, duty called.

Not drawing any more attention to themselves than necessary, as they likely knew via the Spirit they would need to keep the coming Messiah safe, they prepared for the long journey.  Joseph would have had to finish his current carpentry jobs, maybe buy a donkey, and Mary prepare the food & bedding they would need.

Now by today’s standards, the distance between Nazareth & Bethlehem, approx. 102-147 kilometers (minimum 63.43 miles) could be driven in a few hours depending on the traffic & speed limit.

A pregnant woman on foot (or more likely donkey, as too much walking could bring on early childbirth, and Joseph seems like a kind man) would need to stop often to relieve herself, so we are guessing they didn’t walk more than 5-10km a day, meaning this was likely a 20-30 day trip.

Not necessarily the honeymoon expected for these newlyweds.

Sleeping outdoors, picnic food, jostle jostle jostle, blisters, bad weather, rough terrain, bugs, potential bandits, traffic…. this was not a fun excursion.

I am sure they had a lot of time to talk about the miracle of John, the prophecies of the Messiah, and how on earth were they going to raise Him?

Its interesting to note that in this book, Luke refers to Mary still as Joseph’s fiancee.  Until the marriage bed is consummated, the marriage was in name only. I am sure Joseph would have felt too funny/uncomfortable about lying with Mary until after the Messiah
was born, which both birth accounts mention slightly differently.

So not only do we learn from these verses that Joseph was married to Mary, he was a caring (considering her physical wellbeing) and honorable man (following his duty) who likely was very concerned about the timing of this trip.

After all, traveling with a very pregnant woman could be filled with the unexpected. Especially one carrying such precious cargo!

To be honest, this narrative also shows me something I suspected earlier. 

The fact that Joseph brought Mary along demonstrates his great love for her. I think he would have missed her too much to leave her behind at home.

There would have been no shame in going on his own for the census.  I believe these two were spiritually knit together by their common experiences with the angel, and daily seeing the baby grow.  Not wanting to spend any time apart, they had already become a close team at this point.

God chose well.

Jesus was in good hands with both His earthly parents.

The #AdventuresinAdvent continue….

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trusting His timing

Mary’s story continues on in Luke, and overlaps that of Elizabeth…

We pick up the story with a newly pregnant Mary immediately leaving to go visit her cousin Mary, who is now 6 months pregnant.

Elizabeth has only just recently returned home, as the Bible tells us she went off on her own for 5 months to enjoy her pregnancy after waiting so many years to become pregnant.

Now Mary would have taken a bit to get from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah, but as the Romans had been busy building roads, she likely might have had a quicker journey as a result.

Either way, the story tells us she went straight to Zachariah’s house & greeted Elizabeth. (Luke 1:39)

And that’s when this adventure takes an unusual twist….

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb (John) leaped. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and sang out exuberantly…

Luke 1:40

I don’t know about you, but when I say hi to a relative, I don’t usually expect them to break out in prophetic song in response! But since we already know this is an unusual time orchestrated by a fantastic God, a little exuberance isn’t that unexpected!

Elizabeth, as told via Holy Spirit, blesses Mary as the mother of her Lord, Messiah. Not only that, but also tells her how Mary was a

blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true!

Amazing!

Other than God, at this point no one else knew Mary was pregnant. The first thing she did was leave to visit Elizabeth.

Which considering the miracle taking place in her life, made sense Mary would want to be with someone else living out a dream like miracle!

The wonder of Elizabeth knowing her news without Mary saying a word, leads Mary to praise God in a beautiful passage (Luke 1:46-55)

She knew the miracle taking place- not only was Israel’s delivered coming, but she had been given the honor to bear the Messiah!

God chose well, did He not?

This section in Luke 1 closes with vs 56…a bit of a teaser for what is to come in the continuation of Elizabeth & Zachariah’s part of the Advent adventure:

Mary stays for 3 months.

If you were paying attention, Mary arrived when Elizabeth was 6 month’s pregnant.

My guess is Mary stayed for the birth. I believe she would have been encouraged to see Elizabeth’s miracle unfold before her, and it would have given her increased hope that God was watching out for her own future.

#TheMaryChronicles will return on Friday, after we officially meet the next addition to the #AdventuresofAdvent!

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