The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem
The real story of Mary and Joseph reflects how God uses pain and sorrow to bring about a miracle.
BY: Adam Hamliton
Excerpted from The Journey by Adam Hamilton Copyright © 2011 by Abingdon Press
Several years ago I preached a series of sermons inspired by a line from Andrew Peterson’s song “Labor of Love,” in which he sang, “It was not a silent night.” This was not a silent night. Our Christmas carols sometimes miss the reality of what Mary was experiencing that night. We sing, “All is calm, all is bright round yon virgin, mother and child. Holy infant, so tender and mild,” but it was not like that. It was disappointing and depressing and hard. Life can be that way. And the long-awaited Messiah’s birth came in the midst of the messiness and disappointment and pain. He was born, not in a hospital, not even in a guest room, but in a stable, among the animals, with a feeding trough for his first bed.
In the midst of the hardship that went with Mary and Joseph’s journey, amid the deferred dreams and dashed hopes, God was working to redeem the world. God forces every circumstance, including the oppression of the Roman government, to serve his purpose.
This was not a journey Mary wanted to take. It was not the way she imagined it would be. And of course this was not to be the last of Mary’s unwanted journeys. A short time after Jesus’ birth, Herod would try to kill the child, and she and Joseph would take the infant Jesus and flee to Egypt as refugees. Thirty-three years later, there would be another journey she would take with her son, this time down the Via Dolorosa as she followed him to Calvary.
We will each take unwanted journeys in life. I think of those I know who have been laid off work; those who are battling cancer; a family whose child has struggled with drug addiction; people I see each week whose spouses have left; parents who have lost children. You know plenty of others, I’m sure. Life will have its moments of disappointment, its times of overwhelming sorrow and intense pain. But the good news of Scripture is that God not only walks with us on these journeys; God redeems them and brings good from them. The Bible is filled with such stories.
Jacob’s son Joseph was sold as a slave by his brothers, then wound up in Egypt, falsely accused and thrown into prison. But that was not the end of Joseph’s story.
David fled into the wilderness when King Saul tried to kill him. He stayed among the Philistines for a couple of years, writing psalms that asked God, “Why do you allow my enemies to prosper? When are you going to save me?” He did not want to take this journey. But that was not the end of David’s story.