September 17, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“About that time Emperor Augustus gave orders for the names of all the people to be listed in record books. These first records were made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to go to their own hometown to be listed. So Joseph had to leave Nazareth in Galilee and go to Bethlehem in Judea. Long ago Bethlehem had been King David’s hometown, and Joseph went there because he was from David’s family. Mary was engaged to Joseph and traveled with him to Bethlehem. She was soon going to have a baby, and while they were there, she gave birth to her first-born son. She dressed him in baby clothes and laid him on a bed of hay, because there was no room for them in the inn.”—Luke 2:1–7 (CEV)
A few years ago, we decided to go on a family road trip from Florida to Texas. We had heard about all the fun activities we could do in Texas during the summer—we were excited to go on horse rides, see cowboys and cowgirls in the rodeo, and eat delicious barbeque. But before we got to enjoy all those fun activities, we had to sit in the car for two full days!
In preparation for the long adventure, we got a cooler to put our drinks and snacks in, bought really comfy pillows and blankets, and gathered a few movies to watch during the long car ride. We also made a map placing a circle on our starting point and a big star on our end point to help track our progress as we went along. The road trip seemed awfully long at times, and it felt as if we would be in the car forever and never get to Texas! But eventually, we did reach our destination and ended up having a blast. It was one of the best family summer vacations we’ve ever had!
The Bible tells us that Joseph and Mary also made a long road trip right before baby Jesus was born. For them, it was not a vacation. They needed to travel to Joseph’s hometown, Bethlehem, to register their family. There were no cars back then, so Joseph and Mary had to walk for about 7 to 10 days to get to there. Can you imagine? They probably had donkeys and camels to help them, but they certainly didn’t have coolers for their drinks, movies to watch on the way, and no comfy blankets or pillows! It was a very long and exhausting trip, and they were extremely tired.
When they finally arrived, they tried looking for a hotel to stay and rest, but sadly, they weren’t able to find one. There were a lot of families travelling to Bethlehem at the same time Joseph and Mary were, so there were no hotels available for them to rest. Instead, they were offered to stay in a small barn with the animals. It was in this special place where Jesus was born, surrounded by smelly animals and a loving family.
Difficult situations are just like a long road trip. When we go through a difficult time, we can get very impatient and tired of waiting. It seems as if the difficulty will never end and the solution will never come. But we need to learn to trust that God will always illuminate the way and that He always has a good plan for us in the end. Joseph and Mary’s road trip was tiring, harsh, and extremely long, but it was all worth it because it brought them, and us, Jesus—our Redeemer.
Imagine you are going on a long road trip. Can you think of ways your family trip would be similar or different from Joseph and Mary’s road trip? Use the diagram below (or draw your own diagram) to compare and contrast your family’s road trip to Joseph and Mary’s road trips.