Were you one of the 44 million people in the U.S. who traveled for the Thanksgiving holiday? My family made our annual three-hour journey back to southeast Michigan to spend Thanksgiving with family and friends. Throughout the holidays, many people will take trips. Most will travel by car or airplane. But on the very first Christmas, there was a young family that took a journey by foot that changed their lives forever.
We find the story in Luke 2. “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.” (Luke 2:1-5 NIV)
The story of Christmas doesn’t actually begin in a stable in Bethlehem but starts weeks earlier in a small, rural town called Nazareth, located 80 miles north of Bethlehem. In Nazareth there lived a poor, hard working and honest carpenter named Joseph. News of this census caused great concern for Joseph, for he knew that he must somehow make the long and dangerous journey to his hometown of Bethlehem. But how? There was no money for food or lodging. The roads were long and arduous, and robbers lurked behind rocks all along the way. It would not be a pleasant journey.
To make matters worse, the woman that Joseph loved dearly was nine months pregnant and in no condition to walk the 80 miles through desert and mountainous terrain. She would have to ride on the back of a donkey. But they had no choice. She had to go along. The questionable nature of her pregnancy made it more dangerous for Mary to stay behind in Nazareth than it was for her to make the journey.
And so Mary and Joseph loaded clothing, food, water and what little money they had, and began the long journey to Bethlehem. There were no McDonalds or Holiday Inns, and no money to pay for such conveniences. Each day for two weeks they stopped frequently to rest, cook their own meals, bathe in cold streams, sleep on the ground and keep moving until they reached Bethlehem.
The road was hard but God protected them along the way. And there, in Bethlehem, 80 miles from home, in a city whose name literally means “House of Flesh,” the Word became flesh and made His home among us. There in Bethlehem—the city that the Prophet Micah predicted hundreds of years earlier would be the birthplace of the Messiah (Micah 5:2)—Jesus was born, into the care of two young and courageous parents, who trusted God even when it seemed like the cards were stacked against them.
Like Mary and Joseph, we are all on a journey. I don’t know what difficult roads you have traveled down or what challenging paths lie ahead, but I do know that God has a plan for your life. Will you trust your journey to the Lord? If you do, you will find joy in the journey, even when enduring hardships. This Christmas take your own journey to Bethlehem—not literally, but spiritually—and discover how following the Lord is the adventure of a lifetime.
Pastor Barry Briggs
The Springs Church
135 N. Grant, Cedar Springs