The shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
On the Move
For people traveling only in sandals and saddles, the Nativity’s characters cover a lot of ground. Before Jesus is born, Mary makes two treks to Judea, first to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, and then to Bethlehem with Joseph. Meanwhile, the Magi cross the Arabian Peninsula in quest of the Christ child; they arrive after a layover in Jerusalem to meet with Herod. The night of Jesus’s birth, a shepherd band hikes into town. Eight days later, everyone’s on the move again. Mary and Joseph head for the temple in Jerusalem to present their baby to priests. The Wise Men return home by a different route. Then, warned in a dream of Herod’s plot to kill Jesus, Joseph packs up the family and relocates in Egypt. Weeks later, the Holy Family begins its long journey home to Nazareth. All told, the combined distance traveled by everyone totals well over a thousand miles.
Time and Place
There must have been a reason for so much movement in the scenario. Two possibilities spring to mind, both leading to one conclusion: those God selected to usher and greet His Son’s entrance were people of tremendous faith who acted on faith. First, they met the demands of their roles in timely fashion, at great personal expense and inconvenience. And timing was everything. Had the Magi, for example, waited for confirmation of Christ’s birth and His location, they would have reached Bethlehem after Joseph and Mary left for Jerusalem.
Second, much of the time they moved at God’s direction before knowing their final destination. All the shepherds knew was somewhere in Bethlehem, a Newborn lay bundled in cloth, cradled in a manger. How many of us would abandon everything we own to wander dark streets and alleys—especially in a town overrun with strangers—without better information? A lot of us would leave after work, once the day-shifters took over the flock, the roads were safer, and the townspeople could steer us to the right stable. Knowing no place in particular didn’t weaken the shepherds’ certainty they had no time to lose in getting there. “Let’s go!” they said to one another, and off they went.
Led by the Spirit
Anxiety about being lost or unsure of our surroundings is part of our survival instinct. It’s natural. But, as the Christmas story proves, God doesn’t always accommodate our natural fears. He defines direction without directions and destiny rather than destination. Natural hesitance and uncertainty thwart God’s timing and intentions. Unnatural trust in His guidance—moving forward in faith before His plan’s specifics are revealed—leads to glorious discoveries akin to finding the Savior in a manger. “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,” Romans 8.14 says. When faith charts our course, not knowing our exact location in life or where we’re being led isn’t the same as being lost. An old proverb says, “Where God directs, God protects.” Instead of worrying about where we’re headed, as people of faith, we’re confident He’ll get us there safe and sound, on time and in time. So what are we waiting for? Let’s go!
Mary and Joseph's faith enabled them to move as God directed, despite not always knowing where He would lead.
(Tomorrow: Treasures of the Heart)
Personal Postscript: Christmas Travels
While I’m still running behind on my daily posts due to business travel last week, I’m aware that many of us are starting journeys to join friends and family to celebrate Christmas. I pray God’s protection as you travel and His joy and peace as you reunite with loved ones. (I also pray His help as I endeavor to get Straight-Friendly up to date!)