Summary: Christmas is a spiritual journey
Sermon: How Far is it to Bethlehem? Luke 2:1-7 Decmber 15, 2002
READ LUKE 2:1-7
I Wonder as I wander for I wonder what it might have been there for that first christmas
II. Mary and Jospeh’s Journey
A. A Painful Journey
1. The year was 29 BC and a new Emperor was now on the throne of the Roman Empire, His name was Caius Caesar Octavianus Augustus. For centuries, the emperors of Rome had ruled the civilized world with an iron fist. Their mighty legions were nearly invincible, crushing every enemy that dared to attempt to stop them. Nation after nation had fell as prey to the Roman Army including country Syria and the province Judea, the home of the remnant of the Jews of the nation of Israel.
The Jews who lived in Judea were oppressed greatly. It was as though a dark cloud of sin and judgment had covered the land. This great people had disobeyed God and fallen into apostasy and idolatry. As a result, God had not spoken to his own chosen nation for 400 years. For 4 centuries, not one Prophet had appeared in Israel. No one in the land had heard the Word of God come forth as had been done during the time of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Elijah or Malachi.
In a world bound by sin and darkness, this was the midnight hour. The big government and dominating power of Rome was, once again, poised to renew its oppression of the Jews. They were slaves to Rome with little or no hope of gaining their freedom.
2. Israel had long ago been robbed of its wealth and power. The individual citizens had been taxed heavily to support the Roman garrison and to fill the pockets of the governors and rulers that Rome had put into place without any consideration of the desires of the people
There is nothing like oppression through taxation without representation that will stir a people to action against those who impose unwanted and unwarranted taxes upon them.
3. The Jews must have felt like the dying business man who called his friend to his bedside. “Bill,” he said, ”I want you to promise me that when I die you will have my remains cremated.” “Okay, Bill, I promise. But what do you want me to do with your ashes.” The businessman replied “Just put them in an envelope and mail them to the Internal Revenue Service with a note that says “Now, you have everything.”
4. It was a world of power and money-mad Dictators. Of big government that refused to be satisfied until every bit of wealth had been drained from the people. Caesar Augusts had ordered that all of Judea should be counted in a census so that none would escape the new taxation to support the lavish Roman government.
5. And to make matters worse, every man who lived in the Land of Judea had to return to his place of birth to register for the census. News of this census caused great concern for Joseph for he knew that, somehow, he must make the long and dangerous journey to his hometown of Bethlehem.
But how could he do so. He was barely making ends meet. There was no money for food or lodging. The road between Nazareth and Bethlehem were long, hard with robbers lurking behind rocks all along the way. This was not going to be a pleasant journey.
6. And then there was the problem of Mary. It wasn’t necessary for anyone other than the men to make the trip to be counted in the census but Joseph couldn’t risk leaving Mary behind. She could not stay behind for the circumstances of her pregnancy were questioned by many in town. Especially the orthodox Jews who felt that Mary had committed a sin worthy of death by stoning. Jospeh was concerned about what would happen to Mary if he left her behind all alone, unprotected.
7. And so Mary and Joseph convinced that God had blessed them with this child and that God would take care of them on the journey leave, loaded some clothing, food, water and what little money they had, and began the long journey to Bethlehem.
8. It was 70-80 miles of rough terrain. Mary was in the final days of her pregnancy. It was a difficult and arduous journey. Jim Bishop writes in his book, The Day Christ Was Born,
(a) She no longer noticed the chafe of the goatskin against her
leg, nor the sway of the food bag on the other side of the
animal. Her veiled head hung and she saw millions of pebbles
on the road moving by her brown eyes in a blur, pausing, and
moving by again with each step of the animal.