O Come, Let Us Adore Him – Advent Day 16 – A Hard Journey to Bethlehem
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7, ESV)
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1, ESV)
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2, ESV)
The fulfillment of divine prophecy is beautifully seen in the first seven verses of the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke. According to the prophecies in the Bible, the Christ-child would be born as a human being (Gen. 3:15), be Jewish (Num. 24:17), be a descendant of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10), be from the lineage of David (2 Sam. 7:12-13), be born to a virgin (Isa. 7:14) in the City of David, known as Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2).
In order for the prophecy of Micah 5:2 to come true, Jesus’ earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, would have to leave Nazareth and make the journey to Bethlehem. In our day, this would only require about a two-hour drive, but in those days, this 80-mile journey would have taken four to five days. On that trip, there would be no car seat to recline in, no fast-food places to indulge cravings, and certainly no rest stops or entertainment along the way.
This journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem would be undertaken by a severely pregnant woman riding on the back of an animal for eight hours a day, four days straight, until they reached Bethlehem. I have never been pregnant myself, but I have experienced what it’s like to cater to the needs of a pregnant woman twice now, and I can assure you she never requested to ride on a donkey or camel for eight hours a day. This journey would have been painful, exhausting, and quite stressful, with the real possibility of the baby being born on the side of the road.
The Lord used the government of Rome to ensure that the prophecy of Micah 5:2 would be fulfilled. The Roman government took a census every fourteen years, and this very census was used by God to bring Mary and Joseph back to the City of David. Caesar Augustus unknowingly played a part in the eternal plan of God, as Joseph would be required to return to the city of his ancestors to be recorded. And thus the earthly parents of the Savior of the world returned to Bethlehem.
We can be thankful for the faithfulness of Mary and Joseph in this endeavor. Mary’s lack of comfort in late-term pregnancy would have been reason enough to stay home without Joseph or even for them to delay their voyage to Bethlehem until after the birth of Jesus. However, their willingness to follow the law led them to follow the will of the Lord so that the Son of God would be born in the City of David and the prophecy of Scripture would be fulfilled. We all play a part in the eternal plan of God, and even though things may seem pointless, menial, or even inconvenient at times, we know that all things work together for His eternal glory. This Christmas season, we can certainly be thankful that God uses ordinary people for extraordinary purposes.