How Far to Bethlehem?

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When I read the Bible and I’m considering actual events, my mind runs crazy with questions.

I want to picture it, sense it, somehow, be a part, so the experience becomes personal. I’m often saddened by the lack of details the Bible contains. I want the back story, character development, side notes, introductions, epilogues, emotional descriptions, details, details, details…. 

That doesn’t stop me from doing research about logistics, traditions, cultures, etc.; attempting to fill in details. Some times scripture is saying more than appears. That is “intrigue” and will summon me to throw on my coat, hat, and boots and begin exploration, quicker than you can blink an eye!

Here we are in December, preparing to celebrate God’s coming to earth. These simple words, set my mind spinning…

And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from tyhe city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David.

Luke 2:3-4

 

So, Joseph and Mary had to make a trip… from Nazareth to Bethlehem. 

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We’ve all seen the pictures… Joseph leading a donkey with Mary atop. 

Is that the true image of how it happened? Was the road full of other travelers? How long would it take? What was the terrain? Did they use a donkey at all? Did they take food with them? Camp at night? Did they have good feet for walking or was it one painful step after another? (We don’t all have good feet.) Was it safe? (Thinking of the Good Samaritan story) Were there wild animals along the way? On and on my brain goes….

I did a little research …  I thought I’d share my findings, since scripture leaves the details buried on a dusty trail. Don’t take my “word for it”, though: feel free to search for yourself.

Depending on which route Mary and Joseph took from Nazareth to Bethlehem, they traveled between 90-120 miles! Washington DC to Richmond, Va is 96 miles; a non-mountainous trek.

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Scripture refers to Joseph and Mary traveling “UP” to Bethlehem: referring to the hills and mountains they crossed, not a north/south directive. Bethlehem is south of Nazareth, with many “up places” in between. The last part of the journey from Jericho to Bethlehem is an uphill hike of 3,500 feet. Yikes! Even by today’s hiking calculators, this distance and altitude is in the “difficult” category for hikers. Meaning, if you are a non-experienced hiker… don’t start here!

The absolute fastest route would have taken four days, but most people estimate a 7-10-day trip, given the terrain and environment. They likely traveled by caravan which was much safer and common in those days. Yes, they could have encountered wild animals (lions, bears, wild boar), robbers, bandits, rain and chilly nights. They likely carried simple food; bread, olives, olive oil, herbs, water.

A Donkey? Well, there may have been one, possibly to carry provisions. But, from what I understand, riding a donkey is not comfortable nor expedient, especially for a week’s journey. Donkeys are not docile animals. They have a mind of their own and could have made the trip far more difficult. They travel slowly and when they are done, so are you!

My question for us: How long is our journey to Bethlehem?

Not in physical miles, in spiritual ones.

Have you made it there, yet? Even considered making the journey? Have you come to the place of viewing the babe born in Bethlehem as The Messiah: Born to right our relationship with God?

If you have experienced Bethlehem, in your heart, do you revisit often?

I try to revisit, at least, every Christmas Season; to recapture how my heart felt the first time I saw that baby in the manger as the grace-gift from God. It rekindles my love, renews my soul, ignites my joy, and breaths Life, in all my deep places.

I beg you, make a journey to Bethlehem this Christmas!

Of all the places you could go; a concert, service, lights display, dinner, party, shopping, etc., Bethlehem will revive your heart and spirit like none other.

It may not be an easy hike; it might take days or weeks. The effort will be well worth the sacrifice…. It’s a village where birth, rebirth and the Hope of the World is found!

 

A Little Town with Eternal Significance,

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