Mary’s Thoughts December 2017
Just weeks from delivering her first child, Mary would have had the same concerns that any young pregnant woman would. In those days, 10-20 percent of women died during or shortly after childbirth. As well, 30 percent of the babies died too. There were no antibiotics to control infection, no painkillers, no labor inducing drugs, and certainly no C sections to get around complications. Mary would have thought not only of all this but also the four to five additional pregnancies she would likely face during her adult lifetime.
Then at the worst possible moment on her pregnancy schedule, Caesar Augustus decided to conduct the all-Roman-Empire census. In this Mary and Joseph would need to go to the city of their family origin, Bethlehem. Likely they went through Samaria and Jerusalem for a total of 80 miles. Though not written in the Bible, some people put Mary on a donkey for this journey of five days under normal conditions. Since this was unlikely and she was in the late term of pregnancy, they may have been on the road for a week or more. Walking, walking, walking, to end up staying in the homes of strangers each night as was the custom of those days. Perhaps they also camped out in the fields and open spaces as they traveled.
Dwelling in the northern hemisphere in an agrarian society, Caesar would have ordered the census only after the harvest was complete and nicely tucked away in the granaries. That puts us in the late fall or early winter, perhaps December.
Exhaustion at the end of each day’s travel would have been Mary’s “sleeping pill” as she took to unfamiliar bedding mats in a home or a field. She would have had the kind of sleep that so many women in her condition experienced. In one regard, because she was a teenager, she would have slept a little better as most teens do. Perhaps she was also blessed with the peace of the Lord a little more than most.
As she went along the way, the average temperature in the day was likely 54 degrees and the night was 43, not the warm desert climate that comes to mind when we think of Israel. There were lions and bears and bandits, oh my! The Samaritans did not like the Jews. This was not a walk in the park. The government demanded the walk, but it was history that insisted on the trip.
Jesus later said, “I am the bread of life.” Offering the communion of bread and cup to his disciples at the last supper, “Take and eat this bread which is my body broken for you.” This all started in a little town called Beth Lehem. Beth means “house” and lehem means “bread,” thus the “house of bread.” The town where King David was born and where King Jesus was born a thousand years later as his Great, great . . . Grandson.
So this week remember why Mary is so beloved. Think of her journey, perhaps even taking a walk to recall what she may have felt. Think of her fears and of her joy knowing to whom she would give birth.