Mary and Joseph had to go on a very inconvenient journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem as ordered by the occupying Roman government. Joseph’s ancestors went back to King David of Bethlehem and it was there that he had to register.
He and his new bride set out on the seventy mile journey, although she was in the in the last month of her pregnancy. In a way it must have been a relief to get away from those wagging tongues – she was pregnant before marriage which seems to be acceptable today; fifty years ago it was a disaster but two thousand years ago it was a catastrophe.
When they finally made it, after what must have been a hard journey, it was time for the baby to be born. No one would be too keen to take them in and we are told there was no room for them at the inn. But the peace of Bethlehem was soon to be shattered by a bunch of shepherds who had just seen heaven opened and had seen and heard God’s angel say that a saviour had been born, the Christ which means “Annointed One” and was lying wrapped in swaddling bands in a manger in Bethlehem. They must have woken the whole town with their news.
Here in the UK the people who voted to leave the Treaty of Rome can’t wait to get out and the Jews had a lot of support for the same idea. They misunderstood God’s plan was for a saviour to deliver mankind from Satan’s rule and were obsessed with the idea that this deliverer would get rid of the Romans. The little family would have immediately have been projected from obscurity to celebrity and a more suitable home would have been found for them.
The law said that after a boy is born the woman must take an offering to the priest for her purification ceremony which was to take place forty days after the birth. A lamb and a pigeon were the offerings prescribed but a concession was made for the poor who could not afford a lamb – the lamb could be replaced with a pigeon and so it was that two pigeons were all that Mary and Joseph could afford – they were poor. When word got back to Bethlehem of the prophetic words of Simeon and Anna in the Temple in Jerusalem six miles away, the celebrity status must have soared. Folk were thrilled that a Saviour had at last come but it was a pity that they would have to wait for him to grow up. So for a time it was good to live and work in Bethlehem. Highly honoured citizens instead of being the butt of jibes and innuendo in Nazareth.
We don’t know how long it was before the rich visitors from the East came to the house where they stayed and could have been well over a year. These Magi or some say kings and others wise men came to Jerusalem and were called in to King Herod himself – these were important men. We know that out of their treasures they presented the Lord with three types of gift but we are not told how many were in the group and wouldn’t they have servants to serve and to guard them against robbers. What a stir when they arrived in Bethlehem and what were the people to think of that strange star that seemed to hover over where the little family stayed?
Their status must have peaked when these dignitaries bowed in obeisance to the infant Jesus and presented their gifts to him. Now they were no longer a poor carpenter family. What a bright future lay ahead with wealth and status. But God had decreed that Jesus was to be tested in all things as it says in the Letter to the Hebrews, in the same way that we are. The Magi were warned of Herod’s treachery and went home by another way and Joseph was warned in a dream of the danger Jesus was in and so in the night they started on the hundred mile journey to Egypt. God had provided for their financial wellbeing and maybe they did buy themselves a new donkey or two but now they were refugees in another land – never an easy situation.
They stayed there until King Herod died but when they heard that his son was now the ruler of the area that covered Bethlehem they had to go back the their old town, the one with the wagging tongues where he was to spend many years – tested in all points as we are yet without a sin.