Meditation on theJourney to Bethlehem

"At that time, there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child. " Luke 2:1-5

The journey to Bethlehem would have been difficult for anyone during the time of Jesus' birth. Walking long, dusty, rocky roads along with many other travelers and their animals who were also seeking out the cities of their ancestors' birth for the census. But one can only imagine the experience of Mary, who was nine months pregnant at the time.

Those of us who have been pregnant know only too well how difficult it is to bend over, get up out of bed or out of an easy chair, to do even the simplest household tasks. If you've been unfortunate enough to have to travel by car or air or to move during your last weeks of pregnancy, you know the fatigue and discomfort this brings. But imagine how weary and uncomfortable Mary must have been...likely she tried to often shift positions on her donkey, or get down occasionally and try to walk, only to have to somehow get back up on its back because walking was too difficult. Sleeping on the hard ground at night would have been a nightmare. Needing to stop often to rest, or drink, or answer nature's call would have made the trip even longer.

It is no wonder that by the time they reached Bethlehem, for all Joseph's planning and effort to get his wife there in time to get her a proper and comfortable room, they arrived too late. Once there, they were so late that there was not even room on the floor of an inn for his patient wife. Poor St. Joseph must have felt so awful! Imagine his worry and desperation, and how guilty he must have felt that he couldn't even provide his wife a bed, knowing she was ready to give birth. Though it was through no fault of his own, he must have been beside himself...exhausted, worried, sick with guilt, and desperate to find her somewhere, anywhere she could be comfortable. It was enough that his poor wife would have nowhere to give birth, but the idea that the Son of God should be born in a public alleyway if he did not find somewhere must have been more than he could bear. But he continued on, likely both of them praying and having faith that God would provide them a place.

In the end, they were told of a stable. The idea must have been disappointing to Joseph, but no doubt by this time he was grateful because now at least Mary could be made somewhat comfortable, and they would have privacy. The relief they felt upon reaching the stable must have been palpable. Mary, weary and in great discomfort, must have been very glad indeed to rest upon the straw, and was no doubt joyful that the birth of her Son was near. Mary, who was present for the birth of her cousin, St. John (the Baptist) and possibly other relatives, knew what to expect, but St. Joseph, being a man alone with no midwife to help, and not having any intimate knowledge of his wife, must have been concerned and very unsure of himself. He prayed often for strength and wisdom, to be able to aid Mary in any way he could, and that the birth might go well and easily for her.

"O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel."

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