‘Tis the season when the Christmas story is read from Luke 2. No doubt you have heard it and are familiar with it. But I wonder if you have ever really thought about what it was like for Joseph and Mary. Here are a few things to consider the next time you hear the story…
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
- It was 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary most likely would have traveled south along the flatlands of the Jordan River and then turned west somewhere near Jericho to head up towards Jerusalem. And by up I mean up. It was about 18 miles of uphill rocky terrain to Bethlehem.
- As you picture this, keep in mind that Mary was 8½ months pregnant. If they were able to cover 10 miles a days it would have taken a week and a half. This would have been a grueling trek for anybody – much less a very pregnant woman.
- And whether she walked or rode on a donkey, which we do not know, Mary would have been sore and exhausted from the trip. She would not have been well rested as she went into labor and gave birth. Most stories of the birth account romanticize it, but I promise that Mary did not have a beatific look on her face when Jesus made His way into the world.
- In America almost all births happen in the sterile, comfortable confines of a hospital with multiple medical personnel on the ready. Joseph and Mary were probably hoping to stay in the spare bedroom of a relative or another Jewish family or worst case in an inn but because so many people were in town because of the census the best lodging they could find was likely a dark, dank cave.
- The cave no doubt was a respite for animals so use your imagination to take a good whiff of what Jesus’ delivery room most likely smelled like.
- And Jesus’ birth was like any other birth. There was a lot of wailing on Mary’s part, and a lot of anxious moments on Joseph’s part. And there was no doubt a lot of amniotic fluid and blood and possibly that gross looking cheesy stuff followed by the expulsion of the placenta. It was a royal mess – pun intended – as the King of Kings made His way into the world.
- And then Jesus began to cry – which was an awesome sound given everything that Joseph and Mary had just gone through.
And thus began the the most influential life that has ever existed.
The next time you read or hear the Christmas story – think about the story within the story. And be very grateful that God sent His Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)
Never ever forget that you are very loved!