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Sunday, December 9, 2012

One Hundred Miles

       One hundred miles from Nazereth to Bethlehem. If you look at a topographical map you will see mountains and hills and long, lonely, rocky stretches of mostly nothing. I think about that journey so long ago. Always, as long as I can remember, I have had that glossy christmas card picture in my mind, and I loved it. Loved the christmas story, loved to read the beautiful account of it in the gospel of Luke. The cadence of the words, the way they unfold from that long ago writer. I get chills, and I get choked up amd I get tears when I read it. But now I have been thinking about how unglossy it really was.
      A very young  Mary. Just an ordinary girl, going about the work she had to do everyday, Just like us. Not in pure shiny robes with a halo. Not educated or wealthy. Just an ordinary girl. Have you thought about how she trembled when the angel came? How she must have kept this secret , wondering what to do? If Joseph would put her away, what might happen? Would she be stoned, as the law directed?
     And Joseph, only a hard working young man, looking forward to life? How troubled was he, then at these things? How fearful was he of being visited by an angel?
     We complain and grouse about our taxes. Think how it was for those people. The Roman soldiers demanding the taxes from them, having no mercy. How frustrated were they, to have to travel to the place they had come from to be counted in the census? We grumble about filling out census forms, and being bothered by census takers, don't we?
     But off they set, Joseph and Mary, being great with child. Walking those weary miles to Bethlehem. The road from Nazereth to Bethlehem was a main Roman road, well traveled. But it must have been crowded, and dusty, and any one of us who have been great with child can surely feel how bone tired and anxious they were. Just an ordinary man and woman with a walking staff and a small donkey. No one would have noticed them in the crowd. I think they didn't have any glowing aura. Just a tired and dusty donkey with a tired and dusty woman and a tired and dusty man.Coming in to Bethlehem too late to find room in the inns, they go to the stable.
      I picture the stable to be actually not so bad. Their homes were limestone cave like dwellings in Nazereth. History says Nazereth shone  in the sunlight, a white city high up among the hills. I milked cows in a dim, dusty barn for many yers. It was quiet there, with only the cows chewing their cuds, the sweet fragrance of hay, the ping of milk in the pail. I liked the peacefulness of it. I don't know how well that stable was kept, I don't know if Joseph was able to muck it out, but I know it was cozy and warm and a good place to rest.
     The shepherds? Lonely men, out there on the hillsides, watching over their flocks by night. They were the first to know! Can you even begin to picture the clear starry night sky suddenly filling up with a heavenly host, singing?Walking up out of their familiar hills , into this dingy bustling city? They were just ordinary shepherds doing their job on an ordinary night. Until The angels came to tell them the good news.
    The wise men? The Magi. The three kings. The pictures show us jeweled and crowned and finely robed gentlemen bowing and presenting their gifts, of gold and frankincense, and myrrh. I think they were tired and dusty and travel weary, too, when they came. They must have been thought of as fools and crackpots to go traveling over the deserts and mountains following a star. Gaurding their camels and their treasured gifts for so long a journey. Following a star! What do we know of stars? Would we find a new one to study and decipher, with all our reading and studying and knowledge? Would we interupt  our lives to go seeking so fragile of a notion?
    One Hundred miles from Nazereth to Bethlehem! Up from the hills and into the city to see this thing which the Lord has made known to us! Load up the camels,you wise men from the East and trek the weary miles to lay gifts before the King!


  1. Thanks so much for sharing! We so easily forget or are ignorant what our Saviour went through.. For us! Very well written! I will be sure to share this with our children.

  2. If you ever get a chance to see "The Nativity" on DVD I would recommend it. I watch it every year and cry...