25 Days of Christmas – A Long, Rough Journey
So some Roman official named Caesar Augustus declares that there will be a census and the Jews must return to the town of their birth to be counted. Joseph and Mary must travel to Bethlehem because that is where Joseph was from. Only trouble is, Mary is nine months pregnant. It’s roughly 70-80 miles between Nazareth and Bethlehem. At best, they could travel about 20 miles in a day, by donkey and caravan. That’s four days travel minimum. But odds are they couldn’t travel that many miles per day due to Mary’s advanced pregnancy.
There were two main routes between the two towns, on either side of the Jordan River. The route along the eastern side of the Jordan River would have been the easier route to travel. This route would have been close enough to the river for water and food would have been more easily available. It was land that was flat and relatively safe for Jews to travel. This was the safer route for Mary and Joseph but it was also the longer route. The extra time could have meant that the baby would be born on the way to Bethlehem.
The other route ran along the western side of the Jordan River. This way was shorter but not as easy a path. They could run into people who would wish them harm. Sections of this route would run through the mountains which would make access to food and water more difficult. And they would have to go through Samaria, an area that Jews would travel miles to get around. But it was shorter. If all went well, they would reach Bethlehem sooner. And they would pass through the Way of the Patriarchs, the area where God spoke to Abraham, where Joseph was buried, and where Joshua set up the Ark of the Covenant. It was a path rich in Jewish history.
The bible doesn’t spell out which path they took, just that they traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem. I am of the opinion that they took the path which led them through the promises of history, through the land of the Samaritans. After all, if the first people to see the infant Jesus were shepherds, what’s a few Samaritans to Mary and Joseph? And Jesus came for all people, Jews and Gentiles. He even had a conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well when he was in his thirties.
My point in all of this is that God didn’t take the easy way out on anything. How can we then think that “good enough” is good enough? We need to be willing to take the long, rough road in order to fulfill our purpose – reaching people, Jews and Gentiles, with the life-changing message of Christmas. Better get out your good walking shoes!