(Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash)
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the
government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name
shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God,
The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6 KJV
Mary was getting further along in her pregnancy when Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, decreed that a census would be taken in all of the Roman Empire. Every male was to return to his ancestral city to register. Joseph was a descendant of King David, so he had to go to the town of Bethlehem (1 Sam 17:12). Joseph took Mary with him.
The Bible doesn't tell us how they got there or how long it took, but the most direct distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem is 70 miles. One source says,
It's believed that Mary and Joseph chose a safer and more comfortable route that took them southeast through the Jezreel Valley and further east to the Jordan Valley. Continuing south to Jericho, they probably proceeded up through the Judean Desert to Jerusalem and onward to Bethlehem. By the end of their difficult trek, the couple would have walked more than 90 miles; much of that distance across difficult terrain.
Can you imagine? Being in your ninth month of pregnancy and having to travel 70-90 miles on foot? I've seen some pictures with Mary riding on a donkey, so that is a possibility. Either way, this trip would have been miserable. I've been pregnant four times, and when my due date was approaching, I was always ready for the baby to be born because I was so uncomfortable. I imagine Mary felt the same way. On the other hand, this was God's plan to get Mary to Bethlehem, so I am certain His grace was on her to make this journey.
Have you ever done something you knew would be difficult for you, but it wasn't? Because God's grace was making it easy or at least not as hard as you imagined it would be? I've experienced situations like this many times. And I am always surprised when it happens. I still go through the emotions of fear or dread, but when I step out, God comes through, and I experience His grace and goodness. It reminds me of what God says in Lamentations 3:22-24:
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord
is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him."
I imagine Mary and Joseph reminding themselves of this promise of God too. They finally got to Bethlehem, and while they were there, Mary went into labor. There were no rooms available, so they went to a stable and there Jesus was born. They wrapped Him in cloths and laid Him in a manger. Being born in Bethlehem fulfills the prophecy of Micah 5:2 which says, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."
Families and friends always celebrate the birth of a child, but Jesus was no ordinary baby; He is the Savior of the world! He was born to take away our sins. He is the Wonderful counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace just as Isaiah says. Not many knew or planned for His coming as a baby, but today millions of people celebrate Jesus' birth. Most still do not realize His significance; they sing Christmas songs like Away in a Manger in the same way they sing Santa Claus is Coming to Town or Frosty the Snowman. Jesus is not real to them. Many people who celebrate Jesus' birth are people walking in darkness who need to see a great light (Is 9:2). Those of us who know Jesus is, not only the sweet little baby but also the great light and the Messiah, have to tell those who do not know. He is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6)! He is the light of the world (Jn 8:12)! Yes, Jesus was born a long time ago, but His significance is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago!
This Christmas, as you are busy with all the festivities and the hustle and bustle that the season brings, take time to remember Jesus as the baby in the manger, and what it signifies for people everywhere!
Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Jesus!
Casting Crowns: Sweet Little Jesus Boy