A few weeks ago, I accomplished a project I had wanted to do since we moved to our house more than two years ago. Our neighborhood is on top of a hill surrounded by woods – we have about an acre of yard, and then the woods begin. Behind the woods near the bottom of the hill is a small pond where our kids like to fish. Sometimes they even meet their friends who live on the other side of the pond.
The problem is that the woods are choked with underbrush, which makes it hard to fight through to the pond. It was a struggle anytime someone wanted to go.
So I built a trail through the woods from our house to the pond. I had the boys show me the basic path they took, and then I raked out the beginnings of the trail. A friend brought a couple chainsaws over, and we cut through the underbrush and branches to make the way passable. We finished by running a mower over the trail and blowing it off to make the path visible.
The results were great. A meandering trail down the hill, through trees, over and around bends – it’s a delight to walk, even if it only takes three or four minutes to get to the pond. The kids can head back whenever they want with no trouble at all.
I have always loved hiking a trail in the woods, and now we have our own. It’s a joy to walk back through the trees, to watch them drop their leaves, to be connected to the land, to get the kind of nourishment in your soul that only comes from being outside.
Mary and Joseph had to undertake a hike before they had a baby, but it wasn’t for fun, and it wasn’t easy. The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was about 90 miles, and Mary obviously wasn’t able to travel quickly, so it probably took them anywhere from four to 10 days on foot.
They likely traveled along the Jordan River and then through the hills surrounding Jerusalem before reaching Bethlehem. It may have been cold, it may have rained, and they may have had to keep watch for lions, bears, and wild boar that roamed the Jordan River valley. They would have had to carry food and water with them. Once they arrived, the only accommodations to be had were in what was probably a cave-like area used to house the animals.
All this to say: Mary and Joseph were not pampered royalty. They knew the hard realities of life. Mary likely worked long, hard days just keeping up with cooking, cleaning, building fires and doing laundry. Joseph was a tradesman who worked a physically demanding job as a carpenter, callouses building up on his hands. They knew how to work, and they knew what life was like for normal people.
And when it came time to have a baby, they traveled by foot and donkey, with no first-class seating available. They dealt with the weather. They basically stopped at campgrounds all the way to Bethlehem. They slept on the cold, hard ground and woke up stiff and sore to face another day of travel.
These are the kinds of people God chose as parents of the Messiah. Not ivory-tower academics, not kingly royalty, not celebrities, but real, ordinary, everyday working-class people who knew right from wrong and who had the faith to obey God’s call.
They put one foot in front of the other for 90 miles until suddenly, the moment was upon them and they met their son, the Savior of the world.