Christmas Journey

Four images of Jesus' wanderings during his life created by Alicia and Paloma.
Ink on Paper, 11x14 each.

"Think of her courage, her bravery, her stamina and her
faith. No wonder the Lord choose this young teenage girl
to be the virgin vessel of the King of Kings. No wonder
the Lord choose her, for He knew her heart and that
despite hardships and even walking to Bethlehem, she
would go on.”

I recently ran across the above quote and had a rather unorthodox thought in response.  It seemed interesting to me that when we imagine Mary’s and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem it is always accompanied by a great deal of pathos and sentimentality.  We see her slumped over on her donkey, Joseph leading her with heavy shoulders and bowed head, both of them shivering from the cold.  Then, of course, we imagine the lowly stable that they found rest in.

Thinking about her journey in more depth, I came up with a different picture, one that encouraged me quite a bit.  First, that Mary might have accompanied her father and brothers on the three annual festivals to Jerusalem and that walking was always the primary mode of transportation. Walking these distances to us are unimaginable, but to Mary and Joseph it might of been quite normal.  I also realized that in her first trimester she walked to Elizabeth’s dwelling in Judea, as long a journey as to Bethlehem, and back. Did she make this journey alone?  Did she have morning sickness?  Of course we don’t know, but my thought is that being very young she probably had quite an easy pregnancy.

I’ve read in quite a few places that Jesus’ birth could have very likely been in September or October in connection with the Festival of Lights.  Two thoughts came to mind here.  First, Israel’s weather would have still be summer-like during this time.  Secondly, the roads to Jerusalem would have been packed.  I read that annual pilgrimages were times of great community.  This might explain why there was no room in the inn.  And, perhaps after sleeping on the road for the week’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph were actually excited to get a place in a stable.

These aren’t scholarly thoughts, and I’m not comparing my faith to Mary’s.  But I like thinking of Mary and Joseph as ordinary Jews.  Rather than being extraordinary vessels of bravery and courage, they had been prepared by God throughout their lives for this most important of their many journeys to and from Nazareth.  (By the way, Mary and Joseph walked 400 miles to Egypt with a two-year old son!  Nazareth to Bethlehem is only 70 miles.)

I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul,
and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set my feet in a broad place.

Psalm  31:7

-Alicia Laumann