Within the narrative of the nativity story of Jesus, many journeys were undertaken. In the material, ‘Life of Jesus’, Martin Charlesworth explored those journeys and their purpose.
Having heard the amazing news that she was to conceive a child, Mary travelled from her home in Nazareth to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who although past the age of child-bearing, had also been told she was to have a child. Mary travelled to the Judean hills - a journey of about 80 kms.
Elizabeth and Mary had both received an angelic visitation and knew that what was happening to them individually was of great spiritual importance. (S01 E06) When they first met up, Luke 1:41 - 42 explains that Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit declares, “Blessed are you amongst women and blessed is the child you will bear.” They spent three months together, no doubt praying and encouraging each other with the future in mind.
The second and third journeys can be found in Luke 2:1 - 20, (S01 E09). The Roman Emperor called a census of the whole of his empire, including Israel, for the purpose of taxation. This meant that Joseph and Mary had to travel from Nazareth to their hometown of Bethlehem to be registered. This was a journey of between 100 and 150 kms. Mary was heavily pregnant at the time. The uncomfortable journey ended in the birth of the baby Jesus - in very basic circumstances.
At the same time, there were shepherds living and working on the nearby hills. They journeyed down to the village of Bethlehem, following the angels’ message that, “Today in the town of David, a saviour has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord.” Some of the people most outcast from society were the first to witness the birth of the longed-for Messiah. They spread the news of what they had seen and heard.
The next journey is a short one; Bethlehem is only a few kilometres from Jerusalem, the capital and the spiritual headquarters of Judaism and the Temple. Luke 2:21 - 38 recounts the story of Jesus being presented by Mary and Joseph eight days after his birth, for his circumcision, as was the Jewish custom and was intrinsically linked to Jesus’ Jewishness. (S01 E10) Whilst there, the family met Simeon and Anna who both prophetically recognised Jesus to be the long-awaited Messiah.
The longest nativity journey was undertaken by the Magi who travelled from the East. Matthew 2:1 - 12 (S01 E11) recounts the story. Martin Charlesworth comments that they probably came from Babylonia - modern day Iraq. The Magi were astrologers who were respected advisors in the Babylonian court. They had seen a phenomenon, described as a star, which caused them to take the journey to Jerusalem. This was a journey of over 1200 kilometres. Martin explains that they were aware of the Jewish messianic expectations and were led by God to make the journey. They went to Herod’s palace in Jerusalem, but then went on to Bethlehem following the star.
The Magi were on a physical journey but also on a spiritual journey. Three factors influenced them: they were attuned to the natural world; they had the direct revelation of God’s word (found in Micah); and they experienced the miraculous. God can still speak to us in each of these ways.and lead us to have faith in Him. When they arrived in Bethlehem they worshipped and bowed before Jesus. They used their own resources to make their way to Bethlehem, were guided to go further and were open to seeking after truth.
Wise people still seek Jesus!