And 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, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. (Luke 2:4-5)
Joseph’s betrothed, Mary, joins him on the road to Bethlehem in response to Caesar’s decree for an empire-wide census. Maybe they were glad to get out of town. They had a lot of explaining to do. Mary’s pregnancy and Joseph’s decision not to divorce her was unheard of. Yes, they had both heard from angels that the baby was the Christ, the Son of God. That explanation was out there, too. A road trip to Bethlehem may have been a break they needed.
We’ve all been there. You get in trouble, and have to show up at school the next day. Or explain the dent in the car to your parents. Or go home to an furious spouse. Or tell your boss you lost the contract. Sometimes you just want to get away from it all. Sometimes you just want to take the road to Bethlehem.
Moses ditched his friends and got a job as a shepherd in the mountains. Jonah booked a cruise to Tarshish. Jacob ran away from home and an angry older brother. Elijah quits and walks off into the desert. Peter hears the rooster and walks away to weep. Puzzled women walked away from an empty tomb.
You can walk away from a fight. You can walk out of a deal. You can walk off the job. You can walk away angry. You can walk away in tears.
But you can’t walk away from yourself. No matter where you go, you still have to deal with hurt, your fear, or your anger. You still have to deal with those voices in your head, the feeling in your gut, and the ache in your heart.
Those in scripture who walked away found themselves on the road to Bethlehem. They found themselves on a path that led them to the Lord. A burning bush. A gigantic fish. A ladder to heaven. An angel with lunch. A compassionate Savior. The risen Christ!
Since we describe God as omnipresent, we shouldn’t be surprised when he shows up somewhere down the road. Maybe that’s the lesson we’re supposed to learn. Just like David who marveled at how God got around to the highest, deepest and farthest-away places he could imagine (Psalm 139:7-10).
Thanks, Lord, for being a step ahead of me when I just want to walk away. Remind me to always walk towards you. Amen.