For most of us, the holidays seem to turn our thoughts to childhood memories of family and past Thanksgivings and Christmastimes. Since part of my afternoon was spent getting the car serviced, my mind drifted back to great Aunt Helen (Grandmother’s sister) and her husband, Bill, who would come in a small, shiny, black coup to Grandma’s for the holidays. I was about 4 years old and was sure they were rich. Of course, I did not know then that the car was possibly 10-15 years old.
Cars fascinated me because neither my parents nor grandparents owned one. When Aunt Helen and Uncle Bill left to go home, I would squeeze into the back seat and ride to the end of the block where they would drop me off. I can even remember the happy feeling of walking back to the house.
The first car I remember my dad purchasing was an old forest green Studebaker that I’m not sure was very reliable. Several weeks before my 9th birthday, I committed my life to Christ in that old car as my parents and two other adults talked about the Second Coming of Christ while we traveled to church. That decision has impacted my entire life.
I look back with nostalgia and gratefulness on those days, but those old cars did not travel fast and were not nearly as comfortable as today’s models. Imagine with me the slow, laborious traveling during Christ’s time here on earth.
Mary was on a donkey, not in a nice SUV, as she and Joseph traveled the 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. You and I could easily make that journey in about an hour and a half on an Interstate. For Mary and Joseph, the trip could have taken as many as nine or ten days. Besides unpaved and hilly roads and harsh weather, the area was known for robbers and wild animals. It must have been terribly uncomfortable for Mary who was in her last month of pregnancy.
In reading the gospels of Matthew and Luke, we have a detailed account of those days (Matthew 1-2; 2 Luke 2). Luke tells us that the couple went from Nazareth to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken. He describes Jesus’ birth, the glorious angel choir, and the shepherds. Matthew recounts the travels of the Wisemen and Herod’s killing spree in his attempt to destroy the Christ Child. When Jesus was eight days old, Mary and Joseph journeyed to Jerusalem where they presented Him “to the Lord as it is written in the Law” (Luke 2:22-24), which was another day’s journey. Then Matthew includes the family’s escape to Egypt, a trek of more than 600 miles. That must have been a very laborious trip with a young baby. Finally they travel back to Israel and settled in Nazareth.
As we travel to and fro this holiday season, may we be reminded of the greatest trip ever taken–when Jesus left heaven and took on the form of man. John’s gospel says, “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us…” (John 1:14). His birth, death, and resurrection made it possible for us to be forgiven and to be transported one day from this earth to heaven. What a great journey that will be!