We all know the Story; we’ve heard it over and over again. If you close your eyes you can almost picture them, Mary, Great with Child, on a donkey. Wow while that may be an accurate description I’m not sure that any woman ever, would appreciate being described that way. Ranks right up there with, “She was as big as a house.”
However you might describe Mary’s physical state the reality was that Mary was 9 month pregnant and probably riding on a donkey, if she was lucky.
If we pull down one of our maps we discover the trip that took them from Nazareth, up here just 24 Kms southwest of the Sea of Galilee to Bethlehem which was 120 kms away over rugged terrain.
A trip that probably would have taken them the best part of a week and in the very best of situations they would have ridden donkeys. Donkeys! You ever ride on a donkey? You ever ride on a donkey 9 months pregnant?
You would have to wonder what would ever possess a man to take his very pregnant wife on that type of journey. Madness or perhaps there was another explanation or two.
Within the scriptures we discovered the answers. The first part of the answer lies in the Old Testament, it was prophesied by the Prophet Micah.
You will remember that King David was considered the greatest king that Israel ever had, and he was born in Bethlehem and throughout the Old Testament it was declared that the coming Messiah would be a descendent of David and Micah wrote this hundreds of years before the birth of Christ: Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.
But the second part of the answer is not found hundreds of years before Christ’s birth but at the very time of Christ’s birth. Luke 2:1-4 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home.
Not sure that Mary and Joseph would have seen it as a fortuitous situation but it certainly meant that they were where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there.
The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem is a very familiar part of the Christmas story and it has all the earmarks of a great story. You hear it this time of year in sermons, songs and read about it on Christmas cards.
We all know the Story; we’ve heard it over and over again. But there is another story, a story seldom told that is part of the Christmas Narrative as well.
Please stand with me for the reading from God’s word. (Matthew 2:7-14)
You see, when we think of the journey of Christmas we think of the part of the trip before Jesus was born, but there was another trip, and that is a Story that is seldom told.
Let’s go back to the story.
You will recall how on their way to Bethlehem the Wise Men stopped into Jerusalem where they paid their respects to King Herod who wasn’t really a King but was kind of a puppet Governor whom the Romans let rule over a small portion of Palestine.