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What Did the Holy Family's Journey to Bethlehem Entail? A Closer Look at the Modern Reality

The liturgical season of Christmas has only just begun!

Christmas begins with the Nativity of Our Lord and ends on the Baptism of the Lord.

There are many things to bring to prayer as we enter into this season of celebration and thanksgiving for the gift of the Christ child.

One thing worth contemplating is the journey to Bethlehem leading up to Jesus’ birth.

Immaculate Conception Parish in Worcester, Mass., shared a powerful image on social media providing a glimpse of the reality behind this journey.

The post caption reads,

“It is worth reflecting on the trip that Joseph and Mary had to take from their hometown in Nazareth to Bethlehem. Today this trip takes 31 hours walking over 90 miles over paved streets and crossing many towns AND with Google Maps to guide you. But back then, this journey was most likely over rough terrain and packed with highwaymen (robbers,) with the additional difficulty that this route is full [of] steep hills they would have to navigate. Our Lady and St. Joseph, pray for us!”


Can you imagine making this journey? I often wonder what Joseph and Mary endured, spoke about, held in their hearts, and the love they shared.

We are told of the events leading up to the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke 2: 1-7:

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

But, as Dave Armstrong explains in a thought-provoking article from the National Catholic Register, the details are often assumed,

“Luke 2:5-6 never claims that 1) that the Blessed Virgin Mary was 8-9 months pregnant on the journey, or 2) that she delivered the baby Jesus as soon as they arrived in Bethlehem (like all the movies assume). All we know from these two verses is that 1) she was pregnant while making the journey, and 2) she delivered the baby Jesus in Bethlehem.We know not a thing about how far along in her pregnancy she was, or how long they were in Bethlehem before she bore baby Jesus. It’s all mere groundless assumptions and speculations. We’re just so used to thinking about it in a certain way that we overlook the fact that certain things aren’t definitively stated.”

There is a lot of mystery surrounding these events, but one thing is certain: the journey to Bethlehem led to the birth of our Savior!

Mother Mary and Saint Joseph, Pray for Us!

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