Advent Week 2 Reflection: Hidden Blessings for Joseph and the Journey to Bethlehem
This reflection is based off of The Advent Story by Servant of God, Cora Evans.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:1-7
An often-overlooked portion of the Christmas narrative is the journey to Bethlehem. It begins with the imposition of a Roman Emperor. At Caesar’s command, Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary, embark on a 90-mile journey which would likely have taken 5 days or longer.
I have always been struck by the simple and straightforward way this burden is approached in the Gospel. The Gospel simply states the command and seems to skip right to the outcome. Noticeably absent is all of the grumbling and complaining that I would have done.
As I reflect on this event, it occurs to me that the difference between Mary, Joseph, and I is their ability to recognize God’s providence in all events (the good, bad, and mundane). While the Gospels do not provide the details of God’s providence, there are several burdens that on deeper examination can reasonably be seen as blessings.
#1 A long, lonely trip that may not have been so lonely.
I often imagine the trip as a long and lonely journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. However, Caesar’s order applied to all inhabitants of Judea (and there was a reason the inn was full). Moreover, travelers in this age rarely travelled alone as there was greater safety in numbers. As such, Joseph and Mary likely would not have travelled alone. Cora Evans, in her visions, reports that Joseph and Mary were accompanied by Joseph’s parents and other relatives. Since virtue does not occur in isolation, it can be assumed that the men and women accompanying them were like Joseph and were similarly filled with great virtue. In other words, no greater travelling companions could likely have been had. Hence, God provided Joseph and Mary with significant love and support from virtuous friends throughout the difficult journey.
#2 No room at the inn.
There was no room at the inn. It must be remembered that hotels in ancient times shared little in common with the luxury hotels of today. Cora Evans describes the inn in Bethlehem as a high walled enclosure with covered porches in which the animals of travelers were tied to pillars in a central courtyard. Our modern sensibilities would be hard pressed to imagine giving birth in this location. Exposed to the eyes of strangers and surrounded by the filth of beasts of burden.
#3 Born in a barn.
In contrast to a public inn, the stable offered privacy and even warmth. Rather than being exposed to the open air and the eyes of strangers, Mary could be made comfortable on a bed of fresh hay. Even the animals themselves provided a source of heat which could be trapped inside the cave-like stable and increase Mary’s comfort.
A Practice for Advent
The trip to Bethlehem offers us the chance to encounter God’s providence in unexpected ways. However, this often requires us to see things differently. To move beyond initial impressions. Doing this requires intentionality and effort. Therefore, I would like to offer a practice I have adopted to grow in recognition of God’s providence. I call it the my daily A.O.G. (A.O.G. stands for Acts of Grace).
This Advent, I encourage you to get a little notebook and each day to sit down, review the past 24 hours, and identify one Act of Grace. At the end of Advent, review your list to see both the mighty and subtle ways God is acting to prepare for His coming into your life this Christmas.
Missed the Advent Week 1 Reflection? Read it here!