Because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He travelled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
Luke 2:4-5 NLT
If you travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem these days it is a relatively easy journey. The roads are good and you should get there by car in about two and half hours. Mary and Joseph’s experience would have been completely different. On foot the 90 mile journey would have been arduous and dangerous. They would probably have gone down the Jordan Valley which, at the time, was heavily wooded and was home to wolves, lions and wild boar. They posed a significant threat to the young couple but, in addition, they had to face the everpresent threat from robbers. The journey would normally take walkers about five days but because Mary was in the last stages of her pregnancy they may well have taken a few days longer than that. The weather would also have been a challenge. During the day it would have been hot and at night it would often have been freezing. The young couple must have been absolutely exhausted when they finally arrived in Bethlehem.
It is valuable for us to remind ourselves of the circumstances of Jesus’ birth to emphasise the point that there were absolutely no special privileges surrounding his coming into the world. The romanticised pictures of Jesus’ birth could easily lull us into thinking that all was sweetness and light, but that was far from the case. When John wrote in his gospel that “the Word became human and made his home among us” (John 1.14) he was telling us that God fully took upon himself the vulnerability and awkwardness of human life. He received no special treatment. As we celebrate Christmas we need to praise God that in the sending of Jesus into the world we see the full extent of his love for us.
What do the circumstances of Jesus’ birth tell you about the nature of God?
Dear Father, we thank you for your willingness to send Jesus into our world with all its challenges and difficulties. Amen