68.9 Miles to Bethlehem

Every year we pour over the ancient words in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. If you’ve been in church for any number of years, you know the Christmas story. You’ve seen the kids in the Nativity play scamper down the church aisle likely a motley herd of sheep. You’ve probably chuckled quietly as the lead shepherd forgot his lines. Sometimes though, we forget that this ancient story is a part of real flesh and blood history. It is not a myth.

We forget that Mary was a young woman being scorned by her society, because she was perceived to be pregnant out of wedlock.

We forget Joseph who had the grace to let Mary go quietly and not press for his rights in a broken covenant, until God sent a dream and told Joseph to marry this girl.

We forget that a Roman decree sent both Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem from Nazareth.

That wasn’t a cute trip.

I looked it up online and the distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is exactly 68.9 miles. Imagine journeying that distance and being ready to bring a child into the world any day. That wouldn’t be a cute trip if you had a bus, and they had no such transportation. Each time I read the Christmas Story I’m not struck by cuteness, I’m struck by the grace filled reactions of Mary and Joseph, despite the hardship of their situation. I’m struck by the beautiful history and tradition of our faith, but our faith is still living and active.

The word of God is still living and active.

We remember the history, the real people who lived this story, and yet when we finish reading we must head out into the frenzy of our own lives that are separated a couple thousand years from that first Christmas–

and yet the word of God is living and active.

How can a story thousands of years old speak to us who are rushing around finishing finals, wrapping Christmas presents, and journeying home for various family functions?

I believe that Scripture speaks loudly into every point in history. I believe that the Christmas Story speaks to us today.

That journey, the journey of Mary and Joseph, has been speaking to me this December. It was filled with 68.9 miles of uncertainty and possibly tragedy. Would they make it to Bethlehem? Why did the worry and uncertainty not overcome their journey? What if…What if…What if…

I suspect that the reason Mary and Joseph were not overcome, was that Mary carried the Author of Peace within her for every one of those 68.9 miles. This had never occurred to me before this December. Mary and Joseph’s beautiful reactions to the hardships of that journey must have come from a knowledge of that Peace.

We’re all headed in various directions, braving the public transit system, waiting in crowded airports…finally arriving home. We all have a task of a journey.  

Friends, may you be reminded that no matter where you are headed this Christmas, whether that place is filled with peace or strife, may you understand that knowing Christ means that you carry the Peace of the Holy Spirit for that journey. May you be overcome by that Peace this Christmas Season.

Merry, Merry Christmas.

Kassie Neumann

About Kassie Neumann

Midwest native and Adolescent English Education Major at Nyack College. I thrive on poetry, mentoring, deep conversations, and really loud laughter. I believe that Christ, community, and cups of tea can restore the world. Wonder and mystery are two of my favorite words.
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