“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. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available or them.”
In the above 4 verses, we get an account of one of the major events around which our Christian faith revolves at this time of the year: Christmas , the birth of Jesus. It is a short passage, but each sentence is bursting with information that in itself is extremely significant in its implications if you read it carefully and place it in the context of about 2000 years ago: Joseph and his pregnant wife had to travel from the northern Israeli town of Nazareth to Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem, which according to Google Maps, is about 160 km or 100 miles! Assuming they traveled on foot, this must have been quite a journey for a pregnant woman and her fiancée. I wonder what they encountered along the way and where they slept at night: surely this trip must have taken quite a few days.
In the second sentence, we learn of the significant fact that she was not yet married but with child, also representing a major act of faith on both the part of both Mary and Joseph.
The third sentence reports the birth of their baby: for anybody who has ever given birth or witnessed a birth, this is not for the faint of heart but involves very hard work on the part of the woman and is appropriately referred to as labor. There is no mention of a birth attendant/ midwife, no hospital or medical support, no drugs to ease the pain , or help for the new parents with all the needs and questions that arise with a new baby. In fact, Mary and Joseph and their newborn end up in a stable and use a manger as the baby’s crib, wrapping Jesus in a cloth.
In light of this perspective, one can only marvel at the faith that both Mary and Joseph display by going on this journey: they must have utterly and completely trusted each other as well as God to even think about undertaking this trip.
When I think of my personal challenges and compare them to the above scenario, they appear much more trivial by comparison. In this passage and many others in the Bible, we have great examples of how to trust God to help us to fulfill our potential if we just allow ourselves to be guided. How can we face our own obstacles without losing faith in our God, with whose guidance everything becomes possible? How are we being challenged to take that journey, literally or figuratively, to grow in faith? How can we become a little bit of God to others and by supporting them, further the Kindom? What is keeping us from putting our trust in the One who watches over us every bit as much as God watched over Mary and Joseph as they traveled to Bethlehem 2011 years ago?