Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David. (Luke 2:4)
Joseph’s road to Bethlehem begins in Nazareth, where he was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55), a “just man” (Matthew 1:19), and betrothed to Mary (Luke 2:5). An angel of the Lord had come to him in a dream to let him know that it was OK to marry her since her child was of the Holy Spirit and would be the Savior.
Nazareth must not have had a good reputation. As Jesus began his ministry, he met Philip, who immediately told Nathanael, “We have found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth” (John 1:45)! Nathanael reacted, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46)
So Joseph is a blue collar worker from the projects with a pregnant girl friend. The other side of the tracks. The dark side. With one of “those” girls. He sets out with her on the road to Bethlehem because of a government mandated census. With a baby. From Nazareth.
Even though it is a prominent city in the northern district of Israel, with a population close to 80,000, it may have been a settlement of only 400-500 people when Joseph and Mary set out for Bethlehem. In a town that size, smaller than the size of my high school class, everyone probably knew everyone else. Someone’s expecting? Someone got engaged? Someone’s going on a trip? Someone just got back home? Forget about privacy. Everyone knew everyone’s business.
Today, tourists can walk the 100 mile Nativity Trail from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The trail’s description is rugged: steep hillsides, dessert valleys, and olive groves through a number of small villages along the way. The hike takes four to seven days, so you get to stay in homes, monasteries, tents and bed and breakfasts along the way.
Wouldn’t that be an amazing trek? We’ve heard and told the story so many times, both narrated and sung. You could be walking in some of the same dust and dirt as Joseph and Mary on their trip to Bethlehem and back. You would have a lot of time to think about the promises, the faithfulness and love of God that paved the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. You would definitely get your 10,000 steps in each day.
The Lord knows all about you, both good and bad. Through his word we know a lot about him, too. Just like we were neighbors in Nazareth!
I am amazed, Lord, that you know all about me and still love me. I thank you that I know a lot about Jesus of Nazareth, too. Let my steps today remind me of that ancient road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Amen.