Summary: Scripture is silent on the details of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem. But imagine if you were taking the journey today. What would that feel like?
As I look out among you today, I see that the vast majority of us have of us have had babies. But not all of us. For example, I’ve done a lot of things in my life and had a lot of experiences, but I’ve never given birth to a baby. Yes, I know this surprises you. So help me here. I’d like for some of you who have had the experience to tell me what it’s like. And I’m especially interested in what it was like in the last few weeks before you had your baby. What does it feel like physically? Were there activities that you were no longer able to do or things you had to cut back on? And, my research showed that women gain an average of 30 - 40 pounds during their pregnancy. How does that affect your physical activity? Your balance? The way you walk? Us clueless males have no idea what this is like and inquiring minds want to know.
[Who would like to share what all this feels like?]
If you’ve had a baby, perhaps you are remembering what it felt like again. If you haven’t had one, you may have a sense of what it’s like and perhaps a new understanding and appreciation for what it’s like to have a child.
But what’s it like to be a child bride? Think back to when you were about 14 or 15 years old. Imagine with me that you’re living right here in this part of the San Fernando Valley. You don’t come from a wealthy family. Your father works and is able to keep the family fed, but that’s about it.
You’ve been engaged to this guy, named Joe, who works for a framing contractor building houses. He doesn’t make a lot of money, but he’s just a few years older than you are and he’s just starting out. Both you and Joe come from good church-going families and always try to do the right things. You’re a good girl and you’ve never slept with any boys, and won’t sleep with Joe until you guys are married, but then the most astounding thing happens.
God sends the angel Gabriel to the San Fernando Valley to visit you. It sounds so normal when we say it like that but it actually scares you half to death. Instantly Gabriel appears before you and says: "Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you! " You’re confused and disturbed, and you try to think what the angel could mean. "Don't be afraid!" the angel tells you, "for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!"
Wait! This is impossible! You’ve been a good girl! There must be some mistake here! You ask the angel, "But how can this happen? I am a virgin." The angel replies, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. For nothing is impossible with God. " Wow. You’re just a kid. And you’re going to have the Son of God?
Is this really happening? What are the kids from the neighborhood going to think? What’s your dad going to say? And will this be a deal-breaker with Joe? How is he going to handle this news? But you think about this and tell the angel Gabriel, "I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true." And then the angel leaves you...
You are suddenly alone and now instantly and miraculously pregnant. What do you do now? You go see Liz. She is a relative and older and wiser than you. She’s a pastor’s wife and she’s also pregnant with a boy who will be called John. Liz lives with her husband Zacharias in the hill country they call West Hills so you go racing over there. As soon as you get there, and you greet Liz, HER baby John jumps in her womb and Liz is instantly filled with the Holy Spirit. And Liz says to you in a loud voice, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! "But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? "For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. "Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord." Now Liz always talks a little oddly like that, but you cut her some slack because she’s a pastor’s wife and she spends a lot of time in church.