Come journey with me as we navigate the rough terrain Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born! (Luke 2:1-7) Are you ready to unpack the wonderful nuggets God is going to share with us? Let’s go!
Imagine the hot, humid climate of Israel.
You’ll need plenty of water on this trip. (Here’s where being a camel would be great, haha!)
Feel the sun on your back.
The sizzle of the water as it touches your lips, and the refreshing relief it brings!
You’ll also need to pack bread and oil for your meals.
Just take the clothes on your back, traveling light is a necessity in these parts.
I think that’s everything on my travel list. Wait, the donkey . . . ok, check!
The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem is roughly 90 miles (144 km) southwest. OK, this doesn’t sound too bad if traveled by car, but during Biblical times, it was tiresome. We may not know exactly how arduous the journey was, but we know it was surely uncomfortable for Mary, who neared the end of her pregnancy. Nothing could have equipped them for this rough, downhill, and very windy terrain.
Nazareth, which means “the branch,” is just that, a branch, or fork, in the road, a secluded town perched on a hill, located in lower Galilee. It was said to be a “backwards town,” forgotten among other cities. Joseph and his espoused wife, Mary, were to be taxed and needed to travel from their hometown, Nazareth, to their ancestor’s city, Bethlehem, the city of David, or “the Bread.” (John 7:42)
In Bethlehem, this hill country-city located south of Jerusalem, the Messiah was prophesied to be born. (Micah 5:2) At the time of the census, an overcrowded city held no room at any type of suitable lodging. So, our couple resorted to a tucked-in-the-hills cave away from the harshness of the climate. This shelter in the rock, home to farm animals, would have been terribly noisy and odorous. Why would the Messiah be born here? Mary must have pondered so much that night.
“Bethlehem Morning, is more than just a memory
For the Child that was born
Has come to set us free”
(Bethlehem Morning by Sandi Patty)
After the birth of Jesus, shepherds came from the fields to worship this babe in a feeding trough. (Luke 2:8-20) Then, Joseph and Mary fled with baby Jesus into Egypt to escape the king’s jealous decree of death to all baby boys (Matthew 2:13-18), where wise men eventually came to worship as well. (Matthew 2:1-12) Once the threat was neutralized, Joseph was told by an angel to return to their hometown of Nazareth. (Matthew 2:19-23) Another tiresome journey, this time with a busy little boy!
While Jesus grew up in Nazareth, He would later be rejected by His own people. (Mark 6:1-6, Psalm 118:22) But from this town, Jesus’ ministry began. God’s plan for His Son was to be fulfilled even from the lowliest of places. From this forgotten branch, the Bread of Life rose up!
You see, the All-Sustaining One born in Bethlehem, “the bread,” was the Bread of Life:
“‘I am the bread of life,’ Jesus told them. ‘No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty.’” (John 6:35)
Though rejected by His own Nazarene people, He grew in connection to those who trusted Him (John 1:11-13) as the All-Encompassing One (the True Vine) from Nazareth, “the branch”:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.” (John 15:5)
Today, He is our All-Sufficient One:
“And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
How many of us feel like there are many forgotten places in our lives? Or, maybe, we feel forgotten? It’s been a tough, arduous journey just to arrive here in our lives. The past haunts us. The past reminds us. Our present life and our future life do not look like what we want.
Believe me, I understand. For so many years, I felt forsaken by friends and family as a result of abuse I endured. I was ashamed of letting myself believe marriage would solve all the problems in my abusive relationship. But the abuse continued, and I needed to conceal the problems to protect myself. Yet in these lonely times, God was showing me His love and care. You see, abuse doesn’t need to define your lifestyle either. You can reach out for help! It’s one hug away from hope! Restoration is just a prayer away! God became the Bread of Life to me, wrapped me in His love, and sustained me until He fulfilled His plan and purpose for me. And He can do the same for you!
Oh sweet friends, remember God takes those forgotten places, those forks in the road, and makes our paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) We can rest assured our forgotten places will become what God has intended for His purpose and His glory!
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
“‘For I know the plans I have for you’–this is the Lord’s declaration– ‘plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Prayer is central to our ministry as believers in Jesus as we carry eachother’s burdens and intercede for one another. Our team is honored to share the work of praying alongside you!
Authentically living out a life of worship to the God who rescued us from darkness requires accountability and intentionality. Join a GT POD and take the next step in your faith journey!