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Dec 23, 2016

Meeting the Holy Family on the Road to Bethlehem

Chris Mueller

And the word became flesh and dwelt among us —John 1:14.

When Caesar Augustus ordered the census of his empire, I am not sure he fully considered the ramifications. Matthew’s Gospel relates to us that the whole world was to be enrolled. At the time, that would have included the entire Mediterranean region and parts of Europe. In order to facilitate the census, people were required to return to their ancestral homes. Thus, Joseph traveled, with Mary, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. On Christmas cards, this is usually illustrated as a lone man and his wife crossing sand dunes on a solitary donkey. While that image is romantic, it is probably not accurate.


Mary and Joseph were not the only ones taking the journey. More than likely, the routes between cities were crowded with travelers. Nobody would consider taking a trip like this alone. It would not have been safe, as the territory between towns was not policed and bandits would have been a real concern. The people probably traveled in great caravans for convenience and safety. Mary and Joseph would have been amongst the vast migration of people. It must have been an incredible sight to see.

When Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, it must have been like trying to book a hotel the same night a major convention was in town. Every room was booked. Every home must have had relatives sleeping on floors and doubled up on beds. It must have been chaotic. For the Holy Family to find refuge in a humble stable would not have been out of the ordinary. It is likely that many slept in such humble accommodations.

And so, as crazy as it may sound, nobody really noticed the incredible thing that was happening on that first Christmas. Mary brought forth the Son of God. The long awaited Messiah had come at last! Emmanuel! God with us! But, in the hustle and bustle of the time, most people were probably just getting on with life in a crazy season. They were too busy to see the King of Kings.

Jesus, many years later, In Mark 13:31 teaches that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

It seems fitting then, that even in his own birth, this parable is true. Jesus, the Kingdom of God himself, started small and almost unnoticeable. A tiny infant, born in a manger, was brought into a world that was too busy to notice him.

It is hard not to be challenged by that. Am I too busy to see this newborn King? Is my family’s life too crowded with activities, or “enrichment,” to notice God with us? Just as Christ came into the world, small and easily ignorable, he humbly comes to us. His life, his Kingdom, his very presence was given to us at baptism. The Kingdom is in you now.  But, are you too busy to notice? If we are honest, most of us have to admit that, yes, yes we are.

Just as Christ came into the world in a small way, this Christmas, we can invite him to take root and grow in our lives in small ways, too.  In the busyness of life, it might seem an impossible task to begin to study Scripture yourself or with your family.  But, if you start small, you will be surprised at how the Lord will magnify your efforts.  A verse, or passage, read at breakfast and revisited in the evening, can be an invitation for you or your family to see this newborn King. The beautiful thing is that, once seen and acknowledged, Christ’s life becomes harder and harder to ignore.

When an infant comes into your home, they have a way of getting the attention they need. At first, an infant can be seemingly impossible to understand. Many feel the same about Scripture.  But, with time, parents learn to “hear” the voice of their child in the cries, coos, and giggles.  As we invite Christ’s life into our home, through daily encounters with the Word, we may have a similar experience. It may take a bit of time to learn to hear Christ’s voice.  But, once we give him permission to make a home in our lives, his will becomes clearer and clearer.

Life is busy. It was when Christ came, it will be when he comes again. Life will always be busy.  Christ doesn’t wait for serenity to come into our lives; he brings peace into our busyness if we welcome him into our homes.  If you begin to read Scripture, you will have just as much time as you had before, but your life will have purpose and make sense. Don’t miss out on the joy that comes with knowing Christ and living in him.

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