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The Christ of Christmas 5: The Journey to Bethlehem

Day 5: The Christ of Christmas

“But you, O Bethlehem…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).

I’m quite sure that if I were to ask any mother who is nine months pregnant if she wanted to take a four- or five-day trip on horseback or a donkey—let alone walking—the answer would be a resounding “no.” But as you may know, Jesus’ mother, Mary, did take a journey somewhat like that. 

Mary and Joseph didn’t live in Bethlehem (where Jesus was born), but right around the time that Mary was due to give birth, a decree was given that everyone needed to be registered (a census was going to be taken). The Bible tells us that Joseph went with Mary from Nazareth in Galilee, where he lived, to register in Bethlehem, where his family was from. And it’s so important that he did, because it was part of the fulfillment of God’s plan for Jesus’ birth.

Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us much about this journey. In fact, the only thing we actually know is that it happened. However, it doesn’t take much to realize that it was likely not the easiest trip ever made. 

I’ve never been nine months pregnant, but I know it’s not the best or most comfortable time in a mother’s life. On top of that, Mary didn’t make this trip in an SUV with cushioned leather seats and climate control… In other words, this trip was probably less than desirable for Mary. And really, in the context of what was going on in her life (ahem, she was about to give birth), it may have seemed inconsequential or even annoying to have to go somewhere else to be registered for a census, especially when it likely made for such a hard journey. But it was so important. 

You see, if Mary and Joseph hadn’t obeyed the simple decree to be registered, Mary wouldn’t have been in Bethlehem when it came time for her to give birth. But they followed this decree, and the Bible tells us that “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” (Luke 2:6-7, ESV).  

This fulfilled the prophecy: Jesus, the ruler in Israel, was born in Bethlehem. 

So even a part of the story as seemingly minor as this has significant meaning. From it we can learn that our simple obedience is so important, even when it doesn’t bring about the easiest consequences. In every part of our lives (even something like a census), God can be trusted, and He always has a purpose for what He is doing, even when it’s not clear to us. 

This part of the story also teaches us that God should always take priority in our lives—every single time. When we choose to put Him in that place, we will know Him better and see His blessing. As we’ve already noted, this journey was likely very challenging for Joseph and Mary, but that did not deter them. Because they obeyed, despite the circumstances, they saw firsthand the blessing of God: the birth of His only Son and our Savior. 

We may face challenges too—like this, or very different. In any case, with our hearts fixed solely on God and His desires for us, we can be confident in His purposes and enjoy His blessings. Not only that, but we will be people through whom His purposes are accomplished, just as Joseph and Mary were.

So let’s not forget that though our God is great and mighty, He uses small people like us. When we surrender to what He wants for us, even when it’s different from what we want, He can accomplish very much through us for the glory of His Son, our Savior.

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