Monday, December 20, 2010

Journey to Bethlehem

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to his own town to register.  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,  and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

Imagine you are a young teenage girl, heavily pregnant with your first child and the Roman government requires you to travel to register for a census. There is no opting out of the journey, and perceived act of defiance toward the Romans is very dangerous.  Your parents have to register themselves, so your mother can't travel with you. You can't register via e-mail or drop into your local post office, the government requires your presence in person.

You and your husband have to travel eighty miles through harsh terrain, cold weather and unfriendly territory. You ride on a donkey, your husband walks. You are thankful for the beast that carries you, but that doesn't make it any more comfortable of a ride. It takes you nearly a week to travel the distance. You are frightened, exhausted and in labor when you arrive in Bethlehem. 

You long for the comfort of home, a mat to sleep on an your mother to hold your hand. Unfortunately, you are far from your desired comfort, and the town of Bethlehem is crowded to overflowing with others registering for the census. Your labor pains are coming more quickly now and your husband is frantically rushing through the streets of Bethlehem pounding on doors asking anyone and everyone if they can find a place for you. "Please, sir, my wife! She is having a baby! Do you have a bed for her?" Over and over the answer is no. The pain of your labor is beginning to take your breath away, yet you and your husband still roam the darkened streets of a town that is not your own seeking for a place to rest and give birth. 

Finally, when you had given up all hope a man grants you permission to sleep in his sheep fold. It is carved into the hillside behind his home. Your husband hastens the donkey along into the fold and you collapse from his back into the straw below. The birth pains are right on top of each other now. You have witnessed childbirth, but never experienced it. Your husband has no experience with childbirth at all -- not even with animals-- as he is a carpenter by trade. The location is smelly, messy and cold. The pain is terrifying and you really, really want your mother! Yet, by the Grace of God you are able to deliver a healthy baby. Suddenly the pain and fear are gone. You are exhausted but in awe. 

This is the baby God promised. Immanuel, God with us. Your husband was instructed in a dream to name him Jesus. You are holding the son of God himself in your hands. The tiny clothes you stitched for the newborn are all back in Nazareth. Your husband finds cloths from your traveling gear to wrap the newborn in to keep him warm. You kiss his smooth forehead, count his fingers and toes and gaze upon him with wonder.

Gaze upon him with wonder. Okay, now you aren't that teenage girl in Bethlehem anymore... you are you. Keep gazing into the face of that precious baby. Still have your wonder? Are you in still in awe of God? Go about the rest of your day full of wonder. God came here for YOU. In the hustle and bustle of the days ahead don't lose sight of the wonder of God's love. 

In His Peace --

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