“Are you kidding me?”
We don’t know Mary’s exact words when she learned she’d have to transport her highly pregnant body some 70 miles or more from Nazareth to Bethlehem, but it’s safe to assume neither she nor Joseph cherished the thought.
After “volunteering” to bring the Jewish Messiah into the world, the soon-to-be parents had faced one difficulty after another. Now they were compelled to make the arduous journey to the place of their heritage.
Complicating matters was the fact that the most direct (though more demanding) route to Bethlehem passed through the mountains of Samaria—a foreboding territory where Jews were most unwelcome. Avoiding Samaria would add another twenty-plus miles to the trip. Furthermore, this safer route would require the expectant couple to drop into the Jordan Valley and then climb over 3,000 feet back into the mountains to complete the last leg of their trip. Certainly no walk in the park.
Much more could be said about the adversities Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were compelled to overcome, but my point is a simple one: the road of love is rocky, with obstacles being the norm far more than the exception.
Real Love Is Elusive
As humans, we love to love the ideal of love, but real love is elusive in practice. Selfishness is stubbornly ingrained in the fabric of human nature. Of this reality, Hollywood provides one of our best examples. Movie after movie celebrates the glories of love, and yet, long-term relationships elude our most acclaimed stars. They can’t seem to navigate the rocky road of real love.
Love’s challenges are limited to celebrities. Most Christians, I think, coddle romantic images of Christmas as we idealize the things that matter most. Reality, however, doesn’t always accommodate our romanticism. Bad travel conditions, health struggles, and family issues can all turn our joyful holiday expectations into a painful reality.
Some people respond to such difficulties with a “bah humbug” approach to Christmas. After all, why celebrate when responding with cynicism is so much easier?
The Glory of Love
Just as champions are crowned through adversity, the true glory of love, I’ve discovered, lies in the difficulty. Relationships are meaningful not simply because they’ve been gifted from Heaven, but also because we pay a steep price to nurture them. It’s through such a lens that the true beauty of Christmas emerges.
The Creator of our Universe has sent a powerful message through the Christmas story: we each matter. The Father cared enough to sacrifice His beloved Son on our behalf. Jesus cared enough to step from the glory of Heaven into a world of scorn and death. Mary and Joseph cared enough to endure unwarranted difficulty for the benefit of humanity.
And the list goes on . . . and on . . . and on . . . .
God’s faithful love—not our favorable circumstances—is the one thing that makes Christmas perfect.
Yes, the road of love is often rocky, but its blessings are worth far more than any price paid.