They say that good things come in small packages and my wife standing at just over 5’2” perfectly fits that description! When our two older kids were quite young we had a Dodge Challenger that my wife drove and a little red Nissan (Datsun back then!) 4X4 pickup for me. Needless to say that even though the Challenger was a fun car it didn’t quite work for longer trips with two children in car seats and the menagerie of childcare items they required along with their toys and luggage for my wife and I! So since I had already added a sealed top to cover the bed of the truck, I simply installed a carpet and a couple of seatbelts so the youngsters could be buckled into their car seats face to face in the back of the truck up near the cab. The back window had a sliding door so that my wife could easily tend to the kids needs at any time.
One summer we planned a vacation with my folks up the Redwood Highway to Richardson Grove State Park near Garberville in northern California. On the way up my folks had a blowout on their trailer and we were forced to make an unplanned stop in the tiny hamlet of Laytonville to get a new tire. Well, despite the problem with the tire we all had a good time on the vacation… until we started home.
The memory of the blowout caused my Dad to be extra-cautious and he insisted on driving around forty miles an hour all the way home. The normal trip of three hours ended up taking closer to five! Now if you know my wife you know that she is pretty unflappable and extremely patient. And all was fine until we passed the four hour mark and the kids were getting quite restless in the back of the truck. Early on Piper had realized that with her small frame she could slide through the window on the truck and assist the kids. But as the long afternoon wore on she was beginning to get a little tired of slithering back and forth between the front and back of the cab! (It was actually a bit funny for me to watch her squeeze through that window… but don’t tell her I said that!)
I think that trip was the first time in our eight years of marriage that I had heard her complain more than once about anything! The thought of Piper becoming frazzled on that road trip made me to think about the plight of Mary as she traveled for days on the back of a donkey – nine months pregnant! What perplexes me though is that we have no record of her uttering one complaint the whole time… even when they finally got to their destination and found a “No Vacancy” sign hanging on the door to the Inn.
I tell you, these folks must have really been certain that everything they were doing was part of God’s plan. Dictionary.com defines the word “complain” as “to express dissatisfaction, resentment or to find fault.” With that in mind, I would think that if Mary and Joseph had complained they would have been guilty of distrust and doubt in God’s plan for them. Do you ever find yourself complaining during the day? Well, it would seem that if we were really in faith and trusting in the Lord, then complaining would be the LAST thing we would want to find coming out of mouths… wouldn’t you agree?
Tuesday, the second week of Advent
Today’s Reading: Micah 5:2-3 / Luke 2:1-5
I can but only imagine the tension mixed with an atmosphere of excitement in the air as Mary and Joseph packed their things in preparation for the trip to Bethlehem. To many it must have seemed to have been the worst timing ever for the Roman Emperor to have decreed a Census of the people under his authority. With Mary in the final trimester of her pregnancy, a journey of that magnitude would be unbearable. But nowhere in the recorded manuscript of the event do we find the principle cast members ever uttering a single word of complaint! Mary and Joseph had cast the care of their lives and that of the special baby into the hands of their God, and nothing was going to sway them away from their intended course.
God used the reach and authority of the reigning heathen power of the world to unknowingly set the stage for His grand plan. The timing was perfect, and every detail was in place for our intrepid travelers to set out on a trip that most scholars say took about a week. The Romans had built an extensive array of roads designed to move their troops and equipment around the empire. With the world experiencing a time of peace, Mary and Joseph were able to take advantage of the roadways and due to the broad scope of the Census, were able to safely travel with groups of others as they made their ways to their hometowns.
If Joseph had been anything like me, I am positive that he must have done some research into the prophecies concerning the adventure that they had been chosen by God to fulfill. He would have read from the writings of Micah as to the location where the Christ child would be born. He would have learned that the name Bethlehem meant “the house of bread”, and while probably not knowing the significance of that as Mary’s child would later refer to Himself as the “bread of life” (John 6:35), he would have understood that Micah’s prophecy “respects the personal character of the Messiah, and the discoveries of himself to the world, (and how) it distinguishes his human birth from his existing from eternity.” (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary – Micah 5:1-6)
As the drama began to unfold on that first day of the journey, I can picture Joseph smiling at his lovely wife to be, holding her hand with a comforting grasp and uttering the calming words that “everything was going to be alright!” They may not have known the multitude of situations that they would have to deal with along the way, but they were confident that the hand of their Lord was upon them. By then they had to be aware that they were part of a well-orchestrated plan that had been set in motion many years before.
When they turned to take one last look at the city limits of Nazareth, I would imagine the words from Mary’s son’s namesake Joshua was buzzing in their hearts saying “I’ve commanded you to be strong and brave. Don’t ever be afraid or discouraged! I am the LORD your God, and I will be there to help you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9 Contemporary English Version) With that they would have turned and set their faces toward Bethlehem and the task that was set before them.
As this year comes to an end and you take your final considerations of all that you successfully accomplished as well as those things that were not done as well, or maybe not at all in 2014, I would encourage you to be like Mary and Joseph. Let your heavenly Father’s words of encouragement and faithfulness fill your heart and then set your face toward all that He has for you in the New Year to come! Joshua 1:9 would be a great scripture to memorize and then hide away in your heart for the upcoming year! Have a great day! Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting to be Strong and Courageous about today?”