Advent is the season when the world prepares for the coming of Christ. Customarily it is the season following Thanksgiving leading up to Christmas Eve. For those of us who serve on church staff, we get to enjoy “Pre-Advent.” This is the month of October when ideas and calendars lay scattered upon every flat service of home and office, and a few places in between. Pre-Advent is when Advent materials are ordered and devoured. Although it is the millionth time I hear the story, there will be little people and others who will be hearing it for the first time. I have to be ready. I have to have a profound sense of wonder and a building sense of excitement for a powerful story that is all but mundane.
As a Mom, I have constantly found myself immersed in the “Mary” side of it. J. Ellsworth Kalas calls Christmas, “a chick’s holiday,” and I must agree. Kalas contends that the majority of what we know as the Christmas story took place at a table where two pregnant women, Mary and Elizabeth, enjoy one another’s company in a home where the man of the house, Zechariah, can’t speak a word. For three months, the conversations, the laughter, the food prep, the prayers of these two women hold them both for a lifetime. Somewhere around this time is when Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father and Mary’s finance, hears that Mary is pregnant. But I always wondered “How?”   “When did he hear?”  “What was his immediate response when this chosen man finds things are “not as I had hoped.”
I am a Jesus girl who doesn’t struggle with the scriptures. He said it, I believe it. But the details fascinate me. I praise our God of details.
Adam Hamilton’s “The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem” begins his second chapter with a few details that have just delighted me this Pre-Advent.
Discovery #1: The maps matter. Nazareth is Mary’s hometown. For the first time, I entertained the thougth that it probably wasn’t Joseph’s. According to the census, each man had to go to his own town. Joseph’s hometown, according to the Gospel of Matthew, appears to be Bethlehem. Bethlehem is 4 miles from Ein Karem, the traditional hometown of Elizabeth and Zechariah. Mary travels the 9 days from Nazareth to Ein Karem to spend her first 3 months of pregnancy with Elizabeth a 90 minute walk from Bethlehem.
Discovery #2: Men will take a 90 minute walk over a 9 day walk any day to see their gal. Joseph must have been thrilled to hear that his betrothed was so close. The walk to see Mary must have been swift and filled with joyful expectation. Joseph sees Mary. They talk. The sun begins to set and he heads home. The walk back home to Bethlehem must have been brutal and long. Don’t you see her crying in Elizabeth’s bulging lap? Don’t you see him stomping his way back home angry at the world?
Discovery #3: A 90 minute walk does wonders for angry disappointment. I imagine that by the time Joseph gets home, he prepares for bed. He is exhausted from the anxious expectation of seeing his gal. He probably didn’t sleep well the night before anyway. He was tired from the walking, weary from the anger and disappointment. Hamilton goes on to share that though Joseph was devastated by her apparent unfaithfulness, “At some point during Joseph’s ninety-minute walk back to Bethlehem, his anger must have given way to concern for Mary’s life.” Joseph’s head hits the pillow and “the rest is history.”
I can’t wait to see what else this Jesus Girl will learn this Pre-Advent. I am downright giddy already. Lord, may my heart and mind be decorated for Christmas this year before the front door. Amen.