Google maps tells me that Joseph and Mary would’ve traveled about 102 miles to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
That is, of course, according to modern maps and roads. Mostly dirt, and on a donkey. Probably busy roads, with lots of people. Not really our way of traveling!
Walking at a pretty consistent speed, it would take 35-40 hours. And with the daylight as short as it is during the winter, they probably could’ve only traveled for a maximum of 10 hours.
I’m going to guess it took them 3-4 days to make the trip. Can you IMAGINE three or four DAYS walking in sandals or riding on a donkey??!
So tonight, three days before they ended up sleeping in a stable, might have been the end of their first day of travel. They probably stopped somewhere along the road, in a small town, and had almost as much trouble finding a place to stay. They both would have been exhausted, and still with days left to go. They would have known the Scripture, known the prophecies, and suspected that Mary would give birth. But no preparations could be made, because they were constantly in motion. They had no time to stop, rest, and be ready. The journey had to continue, and they had to press on.
People are rushing, bustling, and worrying about gifts and presents. Saturday is a deadline, for so many people, and life is still moving full-speed ahead. I have spent a lot of time this holiday thinking of last year. While I was working at Disney World, I really had to learn that it’s just a day. Thanksgiving is just a day, and then it’s over. Christmas is just a day, and then it’s over. New Year’s Eve comes and goes. The happiness and the joy of the Christmas season comes for me in the preparation and the journey to the celebration. And as much as I wish things would slow down so I could concentrate on making my heart truly ready for Christ’s coming into the world, I have to press on. Every day, we have to press on. Every day, we have to prepare for Christ’s coming.
I’m thankful that I was inspired to think about their journey. It’s not as if they just showed up in Bethlehem and had a baby. It was probably pretty traumatic, for both of them. Mary, a virgin, a newlywed, and only fourteen or fifteen years old. Away from her mother, her friends, and her family — everyone that she might have wanted to be with her as she gave birth. And Joseph, scared for his new wife and the baby she was carrying, aware of his huge responsibility to make sure that the Son of God would be brought safely into this world. Miles away from the cradle he had built, with little money and no way of securing a clean, warm place to stay. Then, they had Jesus with them, and they had to figure out how to get Him home, to take Him back with them. It was a long and grueling return journey for a new, teenage mother and her poor, weary husband, too.
These next few days, I am going to try to focus on their journey. That every step they made toward Bethlehem in obedience to Caesar’s decree was also a step towards fulfilling the prophecies and the plan of God. Sometimes, I can’t see the similarity. I get caught up in how long the journey is, or how hard it is. How much pain I feel, or how much I am struggling. I wonder why I bother to go through things that seem insignificant or unnecessary, and I trudge with dragging feet. I don’t want to find value in doing what I need to do, what is required of me, or what I should do for others. I can’t see how those things are also things for God’s plan and kingdom.
I need to work harder to remember: I know that Christ has come! He is not limited by time, and just as He is crucified for us every moment of every day, He is resurrected and He is born into the world at every moment. Not just on Christmas, not just when we are looking for Him. Every moment! I shouldn’t trudge along, I should bounce on joyous feet, and know that every step in the journey is for the world AND for Christ.
What child is ever born a king? They are born as princes or as heirs, but they are only in line to gain the throne. They have no power, they have no dominion. They are still subject to the king. This child, this baby, was born a King. THE King! Stars burst into life, angels appeared all over, and the whole world bowed to His humble manger. He has all dominion, all power, all glory! Let our journey in these next few days (and every day) bring us to our knees before the Holy Family and the King of Kings!