Almighty God, You are true to your name, Immanuel, God with us. This name proclaimed at your birth was also hailed at your ascension. You are with us always—with us, not against us; with us, not absent from us; with us, not oblivious to us.
And so we go forth in your authority to raise up a spiritual army, to build up your glorious church and to lift up your gracious church and to lift up your magnificent name among the nations. Amen.
(The NIV Worship Bible, page 1338)
Scripture: Luke 2:1-7
We have spent the last few weeks following Mary and Joseph as they have prepared for the birth of the baby who would be known as Jesus Christ. We’ve talked about how risky this was for both of them because they were not yet married. And we have seen how Mary and Joseph, being righteous and humble servants of God, opened themselves to the great work of God in their lives so that God’s will might be done. Then, last week, we went with Mary to Ein Karem and the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah, and we watched as Mary’s spirits were lifted by Elizabeth and Mary praised God for the work he was doing through her.
Mary’s visit to Elizabeth took place at the beginning of her pregnancy. Today we pick up the story at the end of Mary’s pregnancy. Based on Matthew and Luke’s telling, it seems that when Mary returned to Nazareth after visiting Elizabeth, Joseph returned with her, and they were married. Now this wedding would have been something like what we call a “hurry-up” wedding these days. Mary and her family wouldn’t have taken time to plan an elaborate ceremony and festival. Mary was pregnant, and she and Joseph needed to be wed quickly, so they were.
Now, it was custom that the man and wife would live in the man’s hometown, but we must assume that because Mary was at this point halfway through her pregnancy, they thought it best not to try and travel the ten days back to Bethlehem yet. Instead, Mary and Joseph began making preparations for the coming baby in Nazareth. Mary had probably made plans with a midwife. She and Joseph had surely determined where the baby would be born. By the time the eighth month rolled around, they had everything laid out.
God brings peace in unexpected journeys
And then something unexpected happened. The Roman Emperor called for a census of the entire Roman world (Luke 2:1-2). Now, this census was surely for purposes of levying taxes, but it didn’t change the fact that a now very pregnant Mary, due any day, would have to travel with her husband Joseph to his hometown of Bethlehem. They would be taking that ten day journey… again!
Can you imagine how Mary must have felt? Here is a young woman who has given herself over completely in service to God. She has risked ridicule, and even death, in order to humbly serve God’s will. And now, just as it is time for the baby to be born, she has to travel to another town, ten days away. The baby could be born on the road, at great risk. And should Mary and Joseph happen to get to Bethlehem before the baby is born, she hasn’t made any arrangements there. Who will help her birth the baby? Where will it be born?
Have you ever said ‘yes’ to God but then everything was still difficult?
Did you think that it meant that the call wasn’t from God?
When has God brought peace in an unexpected journey?