Day 10 – Illuminate the Journey: From Nazareth to Bethlehem

Advent 2021 Day 10 Devo Image

“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 their 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 guest room available for them.”—Luke 2:1-7 (NIV)

Have you ever seen The Lord of the Rings? Or perhaps The Sound of Music? These are two examples of movies that run between 2.5 to 3 hours long, just enough to watch in a short road trip. In fact, Mary and Joseph’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem would be this long, except their journey was certainly no road trip.

Before Mary gave birth to Jesus, at the very end of her pregnancy, she and Joseph had to travel about 108 miles for a census. Clearly they had no cars, so they probably travelled on foot with some animals such as donkeys or camels to help support them. This journey could have taken anywhere from about 7 to 10 days! Nonetheless, they most likely didn’t endure the journey alone either.

Nazareth-to-Bethlehem

Many pictures of the journey and the nativity we hold today impose the individualistic mindset of Western culture when that was not the culture they found themselves in back then. In a book called Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, the authors write how Joseph was one of many relatives in the lineage of David; therefore, his whole family would also be making the journey to Bethlehem for the census. As a result, Joseph knew they wouldn’t be alone for the ride or for the birth.

The Scriptures also say that “while they were there, the time came for the baby to be born” which indicates they were probably in Bethlehem for at least a few days before Mary’s time came. We have imagined that they arrive at Bethlehem and every inn is full so they have to stay in a stable, yet culturally and historically this is also inaccurate! The New International Version provides a more accurate translation of the original Greek term kataluma which means “guest room.” During this time, there weren’t many “inns” in the sense of motels or hotels like we imagine them, and common people would especially not be staying in places like that either. Family was very valued, as we’ve seen already, which means that there wouldn’t be enough room for Mary and Joseph in their family’s guest room to give birth because everyone would have been in town for the census. Therefore, the most private spot would have been a cave space that most houses had attached to it for the family’s prized livestock.

In this humble setting, the Messiah came into the world. The Word became flesh surrounded by smelly animals and loving family. The journey to Bethlehem, where God prophesied, “though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2 NIV), was long and arduous. From the moment Mary received the promise from Gabriel, there were nine months of manifold emotions and physical labor leading to the received promise of the Messiah, yet the Lord was faithful to illuminate the journey one step at a time through all the ups and downs.

Although the journeys God takes us on throughout our lives may seem confusing, painful, and challenging at times, we know that He’s still faithful to illuminate the way. He’s faithful to not let us endure the journey alone, and He’s faithful to provide along the way even when the outcome may look different than expected.

Mary and Joseph’s journey was worth it because it brought them, and us, Jesus—our Redeemer. This makes our journey worth it every day, because now we have the assurance of the best promise—our salvation!

About the Author

Samantha Rodriguez

Samy Rodriguez has been serving with the Calvary writing team since 2020 as a senior at Calvary Christian Academy. Before going to study communications, biblical studies, and intercultural studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, she interned with the Calvary Communications Team and was a student leader in HSM (High School Ministry). She is passionate about communicating God’s Word and looks forward to continuing to serve in ministry after college.