I wrote a Christmas song a few years ago imagining the Nativity story from Joseph’s point of view. I was driving home from Sacramento, California, late at night, listening to Christmas music in mid-December. Here’s a verse or two of that song “O Joseph.”
An endless line of headlights on Interstate 5
300 miles before me on my midnight drive
And I can’t help but think about those travelers long ago
Who made there way from Nazareth to Bethlehem of old
The road was choked with refugees the weary and the worn
And the world was all in shambles in the year that He was born
Peace was just a memory and hope had all but died
But the broke the darkness the moment that He cried
An honest, historical survey of what Mary & Joseph encountered as they traveled the roads crowded with other displaced people would make it clear that indeed, the “world was all in shambles” in those days, thanks to Roman oppressive rule. This scene should evoke widespread empathy.
Yet as this chosen couple entered Bethlehem, where Joseph had family, no door opened to welcome them. No uncle or cousin opened their door. No VIP suite was prepared. No staff of trained medical professionals. Instead, we find “highly favored” Mary forced to take up temporary residence in an unfavorable shed, barn, cave or stable. Then Mary told Joseph, “My dear, it’s time.” The Savior of the world, THEIR Savior, was about to be born in that crude environment.
But that was perfect for what was about to happen. Jesus needed to be deeply embedded as Emmanuel “God among us,” not basking in luxury at a safe distance, looking down from an ivory tower. He would start at and stay at “street level,” where we all live. Brace yourself, Mary. The stage was finally set. The players were all in place. And Gabriel, you can cue that heavenly choir.