Rosemary Bogdan ponders what Mary and Joseph would have experienced on their journey to Bethlehem as the time for Jesus' birth drew near.
It is the fourth week of Advent. Five more days remain before Christmas. Our hearts are full, as we struggle to stay focused on the magnitude of this spiritual event, amid the mounting responsibilities of a major family celebration. Mary’s womb is full of the God-man, completely formed, infinite love, whose birth is imminent. All creation is trembling in anticipation. Like a tabernacle in a Church today, Mary is the House of Gold, a fitting home for the soon to be born newborn king.
Mary has seen a life-changing nine months. She has seen an archangel with her own eyes. She has been told that despite her vow of virginity she will give birth to a son by the power of the Holy Spirit. This story is familiar to us and so we may not think of how utterly shocking this news would be to Mary. She is told that the child will be great, that he will be called the Son of the Most High! Did she wonder what Joseph would think? Did she wonder how the problem would be solved? My guess is that she trusted that God, in His loving providence, would speak to Joseph. And He did. She didn’t need the details because she knew whose plan it was. She was full of the love of God, both spiritually and physically.
Then Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth and the truth of Gabriel’s words is confirmed. Elizabeth is indeed pregnant in her old age and she too is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesizes in a loud voice,
“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:42-45)
Mary’s time is nearly here. Surely both Joseph and Mary knew the words of the prophet Micah:
But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah least among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. (Micah 5:2)
Imagine their reading the edict ordering them to Bethlehem, as they both realized this child will not be born in the comfort of home, with family and friend support. The newborn king would be born in Bethlehem, according to the prophet. The divinity of Jesus is thus further revealed to them. They had to trust God about the circumstances: how, when and where it would happen. Had it not been for their holiness, imagine how worried they would have been. Did they know anyone in Bethlehem? Probably not.
We are five days from Christmas now. It is estimated that the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem would take 4-7 days or maybe as long as 7-10 days, depending on whether they went through or around Samaria. How many of us have walked hospital corridors in an effort to stimulate labor. Imagine the effect of days of riding on a donkey over rough terrain. All day. Every day.
Then what a situation they were in with no lodging. Anywhere. She could not give birth in the street! How anguished must have been the heart of good Saint Joseph. And how grateful he must have been to the innkeeper’s wife who gave them at least a modicum of shelter! Imagine the star of Bethlehem lighting the way and the entrance to the stable bright as daylight. Surely Mary and Joseph were smiling at this reassurance of God’s provision.
The shepherds were tending their flocks that night. Of course, it would be to the lowly that the Lord would announce the birth of His Son. The sky was filled with a multitude of angels saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of goodwill.”
It is only days now before we celebrate the birth of a King who would change the world forever. “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
In a lowly stable, on the straw for animals to eat, will lay the God-man, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Savior of all mankind.
May our eyes be on Him and His love flow through us as we prepare for this joyous feast, that we may be able to sing with the angels, in just a few days, “Glory to the newborn King.”
How can we unite our preparations for Christmas with the love of Mary as she travels, in obedience to God’s will, to the City of David, where God will be born into the world as an innocent and yet divine human baby.
Copyright 2021 Rosemary Bogdan
Images: Bento Coelho da Silveira, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons; Piero di Cosimo, The Visitation with Saint Nicholas and Saint Anthony Abbot, c. 1489/1490, Public domain, via National Galleries of Art; Jacob Cornelisz. van Oostsanen, The Adoration of the Christ Child, C. 1510, Public Domain, via Art Institute of Chicago
About the Author
Rosemary Bogdan is a wife, mother of six adult children, and a grandmother. She homeschooled her children when they were young and currently substitute teaches at her favorite Catholic school. When not spending time with her family, Rosemary writes at A Catholic Mother's Thoughts and Catholic365.com.