Nine-Months Pregnant and 100 Miles to Go

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Matthew 28:20b

Can you imagine being almost nine months pregnant and receiving the news that you have to travel almost 100 miles – on foot! That's the quandary that Mary found herself in when Caesar Augustus sent out a decree that the entire Roman world should be taxed. Everyone was required to return to their hometowns to be counted, and that meant that Mary and Joseph had to pack quickly for a journey from their home in Nazareth to the town of Bethlehem, about 92 miles away. What went through Mary's head just then? She knew that she was chosen to give birth to the Son of God, but she had no clue where the birth might happen. (See Luke 1:26-35) Did she worry that she might have the baby on the road to Bethlehem? Did she wonder if she had the strength to make the journey at all?

As I set up my nativity scene this week, I thought about these things, and I wondered: What was the journey really like for Mary and Joseph? The only account of it is found in Luke 2:1-5.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. (KJV)

That's not a lot of information for a writer, like myself, who thrives on details. So, I searched the Internet to see if I could find the route that Mary and Joseph might have taken and if it held clues about their travels. I found this interesting account by D. Kelly Ogden on the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints web site.

"They would probably have made the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem by one of two routes. One would have taken them south across the Jezreel Valley, then through the hills of Samaria into Judaea. This is the more direct route in straight-line distance -- but there are two reasons it probably was not the way Joseph and Mary went: It is physically demanding, with constant ups and downs through the hills -- and it took the traveler directly through Samaritan country, and “the Jews [had] no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9).

The other possible route is the one Joseph and Mary more likely traveled. It would have taken them southeast across the Jezreel Valley, connecting with the Jordan Valley, then level or slightly down in elevation all the way to Jericho, then up through the Judaean Desert to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

To discover for myself what each of the routes would have been like, I have walked both of them. Both routes are about ninety-two miles long. Normal walking pace, even with a camel or donkey, is three miles per hour. So a traveler can usually walk between seventeen and twenty-four miles each day. Each route took me about thirty hours to walk—seventeen to twenty miles a day for five days.

At that rate, the journey would have taken Joseph and Mary at least four to five days. We wonder where they stayed each night, where and with whom they camped along the way. It would have been a wearying journey for anyone, but especially for a pregnant woman soon to give birth. It was early spring, which can still be very chilly at night in the hill country. However, in the Jordan Valley -- which is below sea level -- the temperatures would have been mild and pleasant.

The last leg of the eastern route would have been the hardest of all. Jericho is the lowest city on the globe, and Jerusalem and Bethlehem are situated right in the top of the hills. From Jericho’s desert to Bethlehem is an uphill hike of 3,500 feet. How exhausted Mary must have been! How anxious Joseph must have been to find a comfortable room at the inn! Desperate to find adequate shelter, they may have resorted at last to a limestone cave used for a stable." [D. Kelly Ogden, “The Road to Bethlehem,” Ensign, Dec 1995]

Imagine that. Mary walked, or perhaps rode on a donkey, for 92 miles, part of it through a desert, camped at night in God knows what kind of weather, and then ended her journey with a 3500-foot uphill hike; all of it when she was nine-months pregnant. This only adds to the miracle of Christ's birth.

This week, take time to think of Mary and Joseph as they traveled to Bethlehem. Contemplate the trip and the difficulties they might have encountered. Then remember that God was with them every step of the way, just as He's with us now, guiding us through this journey called "life."

Kind Heavenly Father: Guide us through this Christmas season, and lead us in prayerful remembrance to the hour when Christ was born. Amen







Seeds of Faith, Sheaves of Joy

"Going forth with weeping, sowing for the master
Tho' the loss sustains our spirit often grieves
When our weeping's over, He will bid us welcome
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves"

From the hymn “Bringing in the Sheaves,”words by Rev. Knowles Shaw (1834-1878)

My mother’s family has a strong heritage of hard work and faith. Her first ancestor in this country was a Calvanist Christian, a Pilgrim who arrived on the Mayflower. His sons and grandsons became Presbyterian ministers who preached to colonists and soldiers during the American Revolution. Eventually, a many-great-grandfather brought his family by covered wagon from the East Coast to settle a small farm in the Midwest.

Stories handed down through the generations made their way to me, and when winter sets in, I imagine my pioneer ancestors gathered around a fireplace in their one-room cabin seeking to survive the winter’s cold.

Before late November, the time when we celebrate Thanksgiving, my farmer ancestors brought in the sheaves. There was no money for a reaper, so they harvested wheat the old-fashioned way, stooping down, gathering, and cutting a handful at a time with a short handled sickle. They raked the cut grain into sheaves, which were bundles tied together using several twisted stalks of wheat. After they harvested the grain, there was no better way of separating it from the straw than with a flail. They cleaned off a space of level earth, packed it as hard as possible, and, laying the sheaves of grain there, they pounded it with the flail until most of the grain was beaten out. Then, my family gave thanks to God for this grain that would feed them through the long, sharp winter.

Their days of Thanksgiving gave way to hardship. The story continues that the family left the farm when winter departed, but without their young son who must have died between the days of Thanksgiving and the first signs of spring.

That I exist today a faithful Christian, having learned my faith from my mother who learned from her mother and grandmother—faith passed down through generations—is proof that my ancestors survived their heartache and stayed strong in the Lord.

Psalm 126:6 says: Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. My ancestors left their farm weeping, but they brought with them wheat seeds to sow. The heritage of my faith is proof that their dark days gave way to light, and less than a year after losing their son, they rejoiced and thanked God, once again, as they brought in the sheaves.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the grains of faith that sustain us in winter, and for seeds that turn into sheaves of joy.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers.
May you be blessed with an abundance of faith and joy.



NEW FROM THOMAS NELSON

CLICK ON THE BOOK TO PREVIEW. VIEW THE BOOK TRAILER BELOW.
FROM BARBOUR BOOKS
I'm proud to be a contributing author to the following series of humorous devotionals.
And check out my "Kid's Bible Dictionary" and pre-teen mysteries, also from Barbour.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.

See all the books in the Camp Club Girls series.
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By Max Lucado, Published by Thomas Nelson
Max Lucado has a unique way with words, and his children's book Hermie A Common Caterpillar is no exception. With simple text and bright, watercolor illustrations, the story of Hermie unfolds.

Hermie wonders why he looks and feels so common. Whenever he asks God why, God simply answers, "I'm not finished with you yet." Then, one day, Hermie feels very tired. He gets into his cozy, leafy bed, and he sleeps. And while Hermie sleeps a transformation takes place. When he wakes up, Hermie discovers that God has done something grand. You can guess what it is. Every caterpillar that lives to adulthood knows the end of the story.

Parents, please share this book and its powerful message with your children. We are all special because God loves us, and He has a unique purpose for our lives. Whenever we slump into feeling ordinary, we know that we have hope because . . .God isn't finished with us yet!


*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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