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My wife and I watched a movie entitled The Nativity Story the other night. I know, I know. It’s not Christmas. I’m thankful for this film, although like all such cinematic endeavors concerning biblical accounts, liberties were taken, but none that gave us much heartburn. I am thankful because it showed, with some accuracy, hopefully, the raw reality of those days in Judea, as the Romans called it, in particular the distances Mary and Joseph had to cover in order to be participants in God’s call to them. And a wondrous call it was. To give birth to and provide a family for, the Lord God Almighty Incarnate.

Quite a calling.

You all know the story, surely, so we’ll just cover some highlights that are pertinent to this piece.

One day the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said,

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:31–33). 1

You know. Just normal stuff.

I don’t know about you, but I have never had an angel appear to me, much less have him speak to me. (I have had three dreams from the Lord, and none of them was pleasant.) Joseph, the man to whom she was betrothed, had four different divine encounters: The Lord Himself originally spoke to him in a dream and told him to take Mary to be his wife. An angel in a dream told him to flee Bethlehem and travel to Egypt. He was warned in a dream to leave Egypt and return to Israel, and then, specifically to Nazareth.

Both Joseph and Mary were called to this task. We are not told why the Lord chose them, that there was anything “special” about them. Keep this in mind, please, when the Lord chooses you or someone else to do a task. There is nothing special about you or them. And, as it was with Joseph and Mary, engaging in that task may involve some harsh experiences along the way.

In order to participate in this glorious calling, Joseph and Mary had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, from Bethlehem to Egypt, and Egypt back to Nazareth, a journey which covered hundreds of miles. Exact numbers are hard to come by, since we don’t know which routes they took. We don’t know how many miles they walked in a day (Mary was either pregnant or they were toting the child, Jesus), nor do we know if they used a donkey or not. Nevertheless, they spent many days, weeks, months on the road in all sorts of weather and possible dangers from robbers, animals, and iffy road conditions.

What would you say to the Lord if He asked you to walk hundreds of miles and spend months on the road in possibly treacherous conditions so you could to participate in His “wonderful plan for your life?”

Or to suffer soul-challenging humiliation?

I hope you would answer affirmatively.

Think about this.

At first the angel Gabriel told only Mary. Why didn’t He tell Joseph right away? Their families? The townsfolk? Because He didn’t, Mary faced fearful disgrace because of her pregnancy, as did Joseph. This is why, I think, Mary quickly left Nazareth to visit Elizabeth. Note the phrase “with haste” in this passage:

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth (Luke 1:39–40).

Remember, Gabriel had told Mary some wonderful news:

And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren (Luke 1:36).

I can’t help but wonder if another reason Mary fled to Elizabeth is because she—Elizabeth—was the only person she knew of who had also had a divine encounter with God.

There’s something to be said about such fellowship. No one else understands it. “Right. You’re pregnant by the Holy Spirit with God’s son. Um…”

Finally, the Lord told Joseph to return to Nazareth after their time in Egypt, back to their families, back to those townsfolk—back to that humiliation.

So, Christian, do you want to be chosen by God? It may involve brutal travel. Humiliation. More humiliation. More harsh travel.

But the blessing involved? Glorious. Immensely soul-satisfying. I told the Lord just the other morning that I would not trade the humiliations, the arduous hours of travel, the sicknesses, those wonderous experiences, for all the gold in the world.

It is true. I would not, and my wife agrees.


1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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