Do you remember your first long trip, alone? It doesn’t matter whether it was on an airplane or in a car, or even a bicycle for that matter. I remember mine, it was in my car. It was my second semester in college and I was now permitted to have a car on campus. I was excited. I had made the trip from Indiana to Pensacola quite a few times with my parents, but when I was with my mom and dad, we didn’t need a map, they knew the way. (This was pre cell phones and GPS)
I felt excited, but a little apprehensive. What if I make a wrong turn? What if I fall asleep? What if my car breaks down? There were a million “what if’s” running through my head, but my car and I both made it in one piece. I was 18. By the way, it was awesome having a car on campus.
I am writing this on Dec. 26. It is a tradition in our family to read the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2 on Christmas morning. My dad read it for us and now I read it with my kids. Hopefully they will read it with their kids. So, yesterday I read the Christmas story from Luke 2 to my kids.
I like to try to put myself in stories I read in the Bible as much as possible. I want to know what the people were feeling. I want to know what things were like for them. As I was reading Luke 2 to my family, I was reminded of my first long car trip by myself. I was struck by the fact that Joseph and Mary were quite young and probably quite inexperienced in life (Joseph could have been as young as 15 and Mary as young as 13). Joseph may have made the trip to Bethlehem (85 miles?) before this, but probably never alone. This time he had to navigate. There were probably no road signs that told him where to turn. He didn’t have a cell phone with Waze (that’s an incredibly valuable phone app we use to find our way around Guatemala.)
Surely he had never made the trip with a young, very pregnant girl. That changes things. He had responsibility now. He couldn’t just pull over and sleep on the side of the road. If someone wanted to rob them, he couldn’t just run away, he had to protect Mary and her unborn child. He had to provide food for her. He had to make sure she wasn’t overdoing it. He was responsible. When they got to Bethlehem, she went into labor, maybe labor started on the way. Then, to make matters worse, there were no rooms, no beds available for them in Bethlehem. This was not a vacation.
God knew what He was doing sending this young couple on this hard trip. He knew the trials they would face not only on this trip, but also throughout their lives. Their son was the Messiah. He came to save the world, not from Roman oppression, but from sin and death. His mom knew what was happening to him when he was on trial. She knew what the sentence was. She watched him die a horrible death, knowing he was innocent. God had started preparing Mary for that day in Jerusalem, 30 some years earlier on that night in Bethlehem. God is perfect in His love, God is perfect in His timing. God is perfect in His actions. God knew that Mary needed a savior just as much as you and I. God knew that her, and our, only hope was her Son.
So, I have two lessons from all of this and one little reminder. The first is that when we are going through tough times, God is still in control. He did not waste Joseph and Mary’s tough trip. He does not waste our trials. There is always purpose. That purpose might seem so far away at the moment of our trial, but in light of eternity, it’s just around the corner.
The second is that no matter who we are, we all need a savior. It doesn’t matter if we are the Emperor of Rome or a shepherd. We all have the same problem. It is that our sin separates us from God and there is nothing we can do about it. We all need a savior. God provided our Savior that night in Bethlehem.
Finally, as we continue to celebrate the Christmas season, have fun celebrating, enjoy your times with families and friends, but never let our celebration overshadow the reason for our celebration.