The time of expectant hope and joyful anticipation
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
It’s probably common to most of us that grew up hearing the story of Jesus’ birth that we think of it in epic idealistic supernatural terms and surely it was all of that, but it was also mundane and ordinary in many ways. Every character in the story was and is a real person, with real feelings, emotions, anxieties, fears, strengths, joys, sorrows, weaknesses, foibles, failures and successes. They would have responded to life in much the same way that you or I would, except for a few things. They were experiencing these events with no knowledge of anything even remotely like it happening in their recent or distant past. All Joseph and Mary had to rely on was the Word of God they had received by the angel Gabriel. Before the moments of just few short months earlier there had been no prophetic utterances to the people of God for 400 years.
The days and weeks leading up to the birth of Christ were most likely filled with very natural and normal human activity and experience.
After the appearance of Gabrlel to Mary and later to Joseph in a dream they become betrothed. So, Joseph gets the word that a decree from Ceasar Augustus has demanded that all the world be taxed, every household and its inhabitants from every city in every region. So. He and his very pregnant wife Mary start getting ready to make the journey up from Galilee out of Nazareth into Judea to the City of Bethlehem. Now the Scriptures tell us that she was great with child.
For years I had no idea what that meant. Her pregnancy was certainly unique and miraculous, which in itself qualifies it for special note and greatness. It was God, The Holy Spirit, Himself that engendered this pregnancy so that was surely a measure of the greatness of it. But, there is also a simple and practical reason for the reference to greatness. She was very close to the time of her delivery. That is important to know because it gives us an indictor of the general time between their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and the birth of our Lord.
Now consider how they had to travel. There were no limousines or helicopters, no cars or motorcycles. There were only donkeys, horses, carts or carriages. Traditional pictures show Mary on a donkey with Joseph leading them along the way, but the Scriptures do not tell us how they traveled but the journey of about 100 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem could have taken as much as 8 to 10 days to walk and with a very pregnant wife likely even longer. Since everyone was called to this census and to be registered in the city of their family origin there were most likely caravans of people traveling together for safety and shared provision as well as companionship.
When they reached Nazareth, it is likely that those with freer mobility had arrived much earlier and booked all the available rooms in town before those who had to move more slowly could get there. By the time Joseph and Mary got there all the rooms in the Inn were occupied. There were probably many people sleeping in the streets and along the roadsides, but this would be an overwhelming circumstance for this young mother to endure.
Here they were, in the final days perhaps even the final hours before the greatest miracle of all time was about to occur and it seemed for a moment they would be left alone in the cold of the night but their trust was in God and everything they were doing moment by moment was ordained by Him and in His care. In that they rested their trust and they were not disappointed.
Though the innkeeper had no ordinary room to offer them he did have a stable,
A place, though modest in its trappings and facility, nevertheless, better than the harshness and danger of the night streets. Even so, by the time Jesus was born that humble manger in a stable became a place of meeting, a gathering place of worship for shepherds and angles alike. It became a royal throne room attended by angels, archangels and men, all kneeling and praising God for the great miracle and fulfilment of prophecy that had come to pass. And in it they rejoiced exceedingly.
The journey to our appointed destiny may sometimes be hard and uncomfortable even as we draw close to the time of its fulfilment. There is hope in the assurance of the promise and there is joy in the anticipation, but there may also be some pain and discomfort along the way. But the day, the time the hour will come. And in the fulfilment of it we will rejoice and be exceedingly glad because God through Jesus Christ our Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit will never leave us or forsake us or fail to keep His Word.
“Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. One shall say, I am the LORD’S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel. Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them. Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.” Isaiah 44:1-8
And His Word will never fail.
“Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant.”1Kings 8:56