ADVENT REFLECTION DAY 7
6th of December
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. Luke 2:1-6
How far to Bethlehem?
It was only recently that I discovered that Nazareth and Bethlehem were quite so far apart! Depending on which route is taken, the shorter hilly and more difficult trade route or the longer but flatter way through the Jordan River Valley, the distance is somewhere between 80 and 100 miles. So not an easy journey in any sense, for a young expectant mother and a man, perhaps quite a bit older than her, who had accepted the huge responsibility to care for a mother and child, not his own.
The most common form of travel would have been by caravan, many families travelling together by cart, on donkeys and on foot. This would make a long journey much safer in case of accidents or ambush by bandits, it would have been more enjoyable too! So with a census involving so many people, there could well have been a caravan going to Bethlehem for Mary and Joseph to join. If this was the case, the journey may have taken around 4 days.
However, our image is more of a lone couple making the journey. Tradition has it that Mary, because she was so near the end of her pregnancy, rode on a donkey while Joseph walked. But would that have been the case? A fall from a donkey would have been a huge risk for a pregnant woman to take. Indeed, being bumped along on rocky paths for days wouldn’t have been much fun either. And it’s worth noting that the Bible doesn’t actually mention a donkey at all – so did Mary walk too, alongside Joseph? This could have taken a week or more.
As our Advent journey is now well and truly underway, let’s take just a
little time to consider their journey. We can have no absolute answers,
but we can ask a few questions.
Did Joseph wonder about what being a Father would be like? Did he
worry about whether the child Jesus would respond to him, love him?
Did he worry about what, if anything, he might be able to teach this
Did Mary worry about becoming a Mother? What kind of things did
Mary expect God to do through this precious baby? What did Mary
expect the long-awaited messiah to be like? What did she see as the
messiah’s mission on earth? Did she anticipate what He might
Were they both frightened by what the future might hold? They had both been told by an Angel “Do not be afraid!”. But as they journeyed, would that telling have been enough to keep their fears at bay? We have been told on numerous occasions throughout scripture to not be afraid – is it always enough for us?
Who is she? A mother and Grandmother, and what ever about the justice there is little peace when she is around!