The Other Reason for the Season

How did Mary get to Bethlehem? If you get your history from Christmas cards, you might think she rode a donkey. But it is unlikely that Joseph owned a donkey. How do we know? Because he was poor – he brought a poor man’s offering of two doves when they presented baby Jesus in the temple (see Lu 2:24 and Lev 5:7). In those days, a donkey was such a treasured possession, that the coveting of one was expressly forbidden in the 10 Commandments:

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey… (Exo 20:17)

Joseph could not afford either a decent place to stay or a lamb for the sacrifice, so the odds are that he didn’t own a donkey. So how did Mary travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a distance of about 80 miles? She probably walked.

Right there all the mothers reading this just winced. She walked 80 miles pregnant? Seriously? Trust a man to leave an important detail like that out of his account. To be fair to Luke and the other gospel writers, we don’t know exactly how Mary got to Bethlehem. But I have a theory – a Christmas tale if you like. It begins with some good news…

The Gospel of Gabriel

Mary’s life was radically changed when an angel uttered the following words to her:

Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. (Lu 1:28)

At first Mary was troubled. I wouldn’t say it was disbelief so much as sheer incomprehension. “How can this be?” The favor of God is mind-boggling. Our minds cannot explain it. Happily, you don’t need to explain it to receive it. You just have to believe and Mary did. “May it be to me as you have said.” Boom – right there is faith. The grace-faith circuit complete, favor now begins to flow from heaven to Mary. Then the angel left.

Did you know that only two people in the Bible were regarded as highly favored? One of them is Mary, the other one is you. “He made us accepted (literally, highly favored) in the Beloved” (Eph 1:6). To the degree that Mary was favored, so are you. It’s perfectly fine to put Mary on a favor pedestal, as long as you put yourself right up there too. In Christ, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3).

It is significant that the angel did not leave right after he made his announcement. He waited until Mary had responded in faith. God’s favor was on her but she needed to believe it to receive it. So do you and I. We need to cultivate the habit of seeing ourselves as God sees us – highly favored and deeply loved.

Mary’s mystery marathon

So how did Mary get to Bethlehem? I can’t prove it, but I suspect a miracle took place. Perhaps it was something like what God did when He brought the Israelites out of slavery:

You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. (Exo 19:4)

No, I don’t think Mary and Joseph hitched a ride on real eagles – this isn’t The Lord of the Rings. When God says He carried them on eagle’s wings He’s saying I brought you to myself swiftly and easily. My hunch is that Mary and Joseph walked effortlessly and without trouble. They journeyed under a Middle Eastern sun without fainting or growing weary because God “gives power to the weak” (Is 40:29). When it came time to deliver history’s most famous baby, Mary wasn’t worn out from completing back-to-back marathons. She was full of abundant life and the picture of health. At least that’s how she looks on the Christmas cards.

Bethlehem means “the house of bread.” At the house of bread Mary and Joseph came face-to-face with the Bread of Life. So in a sense, God had brought them to Himself for it was in Bethlehem that they first laid eyes on their Savior Jesus.

What relevance does Mary’s journey have for us today? Mary’s journey is the same journey you made when you got saved. When you got born again, you walked on Mary’s Trail. Think about it. Some “angel” told you the good news of God’s favor, you wondered “how can this be?” and then after a period of time you came face to face with the Bread of Life. You met Jesus and got born again. Like Mary, you may have travelled a long road, but the journey itself was miraculous. Egypt is in your past because God brought you to Himself on eagle’s wings.

The other reason for the season

Christmas is not just the time when we celebrate Jesus’ arrival into the world. It’s also the time when we celebrate His arrival into our private world. Grace came 2000 years ago but it meant nothing until the day we believed it and got born again. So in a way, it’s not just His birthday we’re celebrating, it’s our birthday too.

This Christmas, as much of the world gathers around the manger in adoration, take a moment to reflect on your own journey to the House of Bread. Jesus is the reason for the season but ask yourself this: Why did He come? He came to save you. In His eyes you are the pearl of great price and the treasure in the field. As far as Jesus is concerned, you are the reason for the season.

You are highly favored and deeply loved! Oh Happy Day! Oh Happy Christmas!

16 Comments on The Other Reason for the Season

  1. Great take on the Christmas story. When we read the bible we usually read too fast that we forget to take time to envision the actual scene of the time.

    I remembered 3 other stories when the Lord became the strength of the people He administered to. First, after Christ rose again, Peter and his friends went fishing. This time around the net did not break. After knowing it’s the Lord, Peter was able to drag the entire net of fishes all by himself when eariler on they had problem even dragging the net up to shore.

    The other story is how after the couple on the road of Emmaus. After walking 7 miles with Jesus, they are refreshed and have the renewed strength to walk back another 7 miles to Jerusalem in the same day.

    The final story is how for 40 days, the people of Isreal walk out of Egypt with strength and vitality:
    Psalm 105:37
    He brought them forth also with silver and gold: and there was not one feeble person among their tribes.

    I believe that your story is correct – The Lord carried Mary and Joseph on His wings. That’s how 2012 will be. A stroll in the park with our Father. Amen!

  2. Best post ever, Paul. Thank you! …and Happy Birthday😉

  3. …at least that’s how she looked on the Christmas cards. Excellent piece of humor!

  4. Hi Paul, You’re right about the faith-grace connection with Mary. Zacharias had the same opportunity with the birth of his son John (Lk CH1),but when the angel Gabriel appeared, telling him his prayer was answered, Zacharias dithered so much, Gabriel could see he didn’t have faith. To prevent his unbelief from destroying the conception of John in Elizabeth’s womb, Gabriel struck him dumb.
    How much has the work of God been set back over the centuries because we speak words of doubt and unbelief. On the one hand we pray for things, but with the other hand we negate the answer by confessing negative words.
    There’s something wonderful about resting in faith and knowing the grace and favour of God is flowing into your situation.Praise the Lord!

  5. Dear Paul,

    Reading this article is just like taking a warm bath❤. Indeed, I am highly favored, deeply loved and greatly blessed! Keep on sounding the trumpet through your gifted writing.

    Happy Christmas,
    Josephine

  6. Richard Williamson // December 23, 2011 at 11:55 pm // Reply

    Thanks for this fresh insight….it’s great to have greater revelations of God’s great commitment to bring us into that intimacy that he desires for us…

  7. First of all I don’t believe the angel had to wait around until Mary believed,even though he may have, I don’t believe you have to have faith to receive grace or fully understand grace, we grow in grace, further grace is favor unearned. I myself received grace without understanding that’s what so wonderful about grace; however due to grace I begin to trust my God more & more. Grace doses not depend on my faith.

  8. theprecipiceofwes // December 24, 2011 at 7:41 am // Reply

    Interesting perspective! I like it. We often don’t about Mary and Joseph Journey to Bethlehem, we just gloss over the story within in the story. 80 miles in the Eygpt and Israel must have been torturous…but you have point out that it may have been a Red Sea, Wilderness, or River Jordan experience where they were super naturally sustained by God. A Cool thought.

    I love how you bring in the fact that we are highly favored, and we are the beloved. We need to reminded of that, because we forgot that this relationship is not such much about us (Christians) and our love for Him, as it is about Him and His love for us. He sought us out, we didn’t go looking or even know to go looking for Him. Thanks for the reminder.

    I would also like to know what you think about the Relationship between Joseph and his adopted son Jesus. I haven’t nailed it down just yet but there is a correlation between Jesus’ adoption to Joseph’s family and us being adopted (grafted in to the vine) in to His family. I have begun to think about Joseph more and more, now that I am an adopted father. I can’t help but wonder what happened to him. My gut feeling is that he died in teenage years of Jesus. Isaiah 53 says that, “[…] He was acquainted with grief […] ” There is no grief like losing a loved one. The loss is two-fold: You lose apart of who you are, your connectivity with the world (physically, emotionally) and you are faced with the impending finality of your life. One of my favorite professors at USC used to say “We are rocketing toward the grave.”

    I will try and save some for my on post.ha.

    Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, to you and yours.

  9. Hi guys, Merry Christmas. I got a very weird question: is it a sin to celebrate Christmas? Recently, i watched a youtube video which confused me by saying Christmas is a pagan Holiday and he is against it and is upset by it…im really confused now , are we allowed to post links to the video here? I need someone to clear this up for me:/

    • Hi Gabriel, it is not a sin to celebrate Christmas – although it’s true that some people seem to delight in finding the evil in everything. “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted” (Tit 1:15). Have the freedom to celebrate or not celebrate it. “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Col 2:16-17).

      • Thnx for clearing it up, feel much better now😀 , Btw im from Joseph Prince’s church here in Singapore, had an awesome Christmas service, wish u a Merry Christmas although its already ended here🙂

      • You’re welcome. I’m in NZ so am well into Boxing Day.

    • No it’s not a sin to celebrate Christmas. Yes, it was originally a pagan festival, but we can attach a different meaning which fits just as well,if not better.1) The tree and cross are interchangeable(“whoever is hanged on a tree….)words in the Bible. Therefore the Christmas tree and the Cross are the same What did we receive from the Cross when Jesus died for us ?– GIFTS! ALL the GIFTS of salvation — forgiveness, health, prosperity, blessings instead of curses, etc., etc, etc.(By the way this revelation comes from Pstr. Joseph Prince -New Creation Church s’pore). that’s why we exchange gifts today
      2) there are essentials and non-essentials in Christianity The celebration of Christmas is a non-essential.It doesn’t matter to God whether you celebrate it or not. But, He sure loves to see us celebrating His Life and enjoying ourselves.
      Christmas is a great time to witness, because the word Christmas means the birth of Christ(Christ mas) and this word is on everyone’s(incl.non-Christians)lips, like it or not.

  10. Hi Paul Happy New Year!

  11. ………..gave me a new avenue of discovery ……. I really honed in on the last statement . …….WE are the reason for the season

  12. I agree that Joseph was indeed too poor to own a donkey, but perhaps a fellow villager lent him theirs. It is entirely possible, as the law commanded Israel to lend to their neighbor if he had a need and if a borrower had any issues with a borrowed item, he would have to restore severalfold, or in kind, in the case of an animal. Joseph was not a Nazarene so he was a stranger in their gates. The point remains that Paul made that we really don’t know, but it is not outside the realm of possibility that Mary did have access to a donkey.

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