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Joseph also went up

“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” (Luke 2:4).

Joseph couldn’t have been too happy when he heard the Roman decree that everyone must go to his own town to register. “Great. A trip to Bethlehem. Just what we need.”

A long trip

Mary was pregnant. Was she eight months along? Nine, even? A trip of any kind was going to be difficult for her. But 80-some miles? On foot? With difficult terrain? How long would it take them to get there? And for what? To register? To get counted? So that they could be taxed even more?

Who would want a reminder like that? A reminder that they were under Roman rule, that they had to pay their taxes, that they had to go. Work and income would have to wait. Joseph closed up shop—as painful as that may have been; with the baby on the way, they certainly could have used the cash—and they set out for Bethlehem.

We don’t hear much about their trip. Smooth sailing or rocky roads? Uneventful or full of setbacks? All alone or traveling in a group? Hopefully, what they experienced once they arrived in Bethlehem wasn’t an indication of how their trip there had gone.

A holy evening

In Bethlehem, there wasn’t any place for them to stay. How many doors did they knock on? How many people did they talk to? Finally, they found a shelter, a cave, a place where some animals had been corralled for the night. It wasn’t the cleanest place, but it was something.

And they needed something. Mary was going into labor. Her discomfort was growing more intense; those sharp pains were coming more frequently, more regularly.

Was there anything Joseph could have done to make her comfortable? Did he lay several blankets down on top of a pile of straw? Did he start tearing another blanket into strips of cloth? Did he grab a bucket of water just to have on hand? Was he the one who cleaned out that feeding trough, turning it into a makeshift cradle?

Picture the scene. Just the two of them. Joseph holding her hand or maybe holding her tightly. Joseph encouraging her as best as he could. Mary fighting through the pain, bearing down, pushing one last time.

Picture the scene. Joseph. Holding the Son of God in his arms. Cutting the cord of the One who would free him from the cords of death that entangled him. Washing the skin of the One who would wash away his sin. And Mary. Wrapping in those strips of cloth the One who would robe her in his righteousness. Placing in a manger the One who would prepare a place for her in heaven.

Wrapped in strips of cloth. Lying in a manger. A Savior has been born to you. Christ. The Lord.

Author: Stephen Helwig
Volume 110, Number 12
Issue: December 2023

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This entry is part 5 of 61 in the series devotion

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