12 Days of Christmas Reflection Series – Day 3
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So 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. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
Aside from the Christmas trees, stars, snow, Santa Claus, and many more, the nativity image or Belen is always there to depict the birth of Jesus as we celebrate Christmas.
But what happened about ten days before this nativity image is crucial and is important, that is the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.
Mary did not go there to give birth to her child nor was Joseph brought Mary there for a vacation or to find a good birthing for Mary. It was to obey a decree of the Roman Emperor that subdue the land – Judea for that matter and all the Mediterranean world. It was not on their own accord to go to Bethlehem.
From Nazareth to Bethlehem is approximately 90 miles or around 145 kilometers. There was no airplane, trains, buses, ships, taxis, or jeepneys like we have today at least in the cities and in advanced countries.
The journey to Bethlehem was not easy for Mary who was in her last stage of pregnancy. She must ride on a donkey and Joseph must go on foot. Maybe they can travel 10 miles a day at most.
But what would it be like to be on this travel? It was really a difficult one.
“The hazards were many. Wild animals, bandits, desert robbers—all these and more factored into the nature of the trip. The valley of the Jordan river was a forested refuge for lions, bears, and wild boars. Archeologists have uncovered signs warning travelers of these kinds of dangers.” (James Strange, a New Testament and biblical archeology professor)
I think it is also safe to say that they were traveling in the cold wintertime. Raining is also possible. Because it took them around 10 days, they need to spend a couple of nights along the way too. They must be spending the night resting on tents and must cook their food or might be that they brought some bread, herbs, and oil and had to hit some water to warm their stomach in the morning and in the night. We can only imagine Joseph carrying a wineskin for the water and having to find a way to refill it.
Today, in a modern world, we might think that it is all easy. That nothing is comparable to the journey of Mary and Joseph in our time. No, you are wrong. Very wrong!
There are many areas in the third world like the Philippines whose people are still suffering the same. They are the indigenous peoples, the lumads in Mindanao for example. They may not be hiking for 10 days to the town centers. If they have money, they can be riding on a single motorcycle with 3 to 6 persons on it. Maybe it only takes a half or whole day but just the same, it is not an easy journey. There may not be wild animals but there can be robbers and bad elements. Much worse, reports had it that they are flagged down or stopped and arrested for a baseless accusation of being a rebel.
Heavy rains and longer drought also affected their already poor situation having the obsolete and traditional farming technics.
As we gaze at the nativity scene where Mary, Joseph, and the child Jesus are, we might as well think of the hardship they experienced on their way to Bethlehem. From that, we might also think of the people who suffered and are still suffering today of the same hardships the parents of Jesus had to endure before giving birth to the Messiah.
As the Messiah and Savior Jesus is the light of the world, we should also celebrate Christmas by trying to bring light to the indigenous peoples around the world. A light to lighten their burdens and suffering. A light that emancipates them from inequality and injustice.
May you have a wonderful and meaningful 12 days of Christmas.
Hamburg, 27th December 2021, – the Third Day of Christmas