Luke 2:1-7 “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”
The Christmas story as it is known begins with the route of the Holy Family from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as it has come to us through the gospels of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament. Unlike the later Flight into Egypt, we know little of the journey to Bethlehem.
The Journey to Bethlehem
It will surprise some Christians to realize that the journey to Bethlehem is in fact the only known time that Christ, the Virgin Mary or Joseph ever came to the sleepy little Judaean town of Bethlehem. Beit Lahem – meaning in Aramaic, the language spoken of Christ - “The House of Meat”, is an ancient town located some 8 miles to the southeast of the Old City of Jerusalem. Joseph, being of the House of David, had an obligation to be registered for a census population under the Roman government. As the Holy Land was a client-state of Rome managed by King Herod but under the watchful eyes of the Roman ruler Quirinius, it is possible that the “census” was in fact something of a political rather than economic exercise.
Many Christians buy Holy Family olive wood statues as a souvenir of the route. However, if you can’t make it this Christmas to Bethlehem to walk the route of the Holy Family and get your own souvenir from our shop in Beit Sahour, you can still visit our online shop and purchase a Holy Family statue for you, or for friends and family. Pick your own design by clicking here.
What route would have the Holy Family taken to Bethlehem?
As with today, there are two plausible routes.
- From Bethlehem, the Holy Family may have journeyed from Nazareth to the Jordan Valley, then through to Jerusalem.
- Or gone to the east of Jerusalem and through Bethlehem. This route, however, is quite difficult with little water available, and a more plausible route seems to be the overland journey from the lower Galilee directly to Jerusalem, then on to Bethlehem. Christian tradition seems to hold with this latter possibility, as several churches between Jerusalem and Bethlehem were constructed during the Byzantine (early Christian period) in the Holy Land that celebrated the journey of the Holy Family.
The distance between Nazareth and Bethlehem is approximately 70 miles. While this distance may seem relatively short today, bear in mind that the Holy Family traveled by foot and on donkey, over stone paths and roads that would be dusty in warm weather and muddy in rain. The journey would be fraught with peril even in the best of circumstances and without the comforts of home – to say nothing of the challenges the Virgin Mary would have endured, being well into her pregnancy!
This Christmas, as you and your family make your own journeys, remember the plight of the Holy Family as they journeyed to Bethlehem so long ago, and pray for the safety of those travelling for great need - and with great cares – throughout the world.
We, the Bethlehem Handicrafts’ team, are so proud to put the Holy Land in your hand by giving you a variety of the best and the most outstanding original Bethlehem’s olive wood carvings with the best quality made in the Holy Land.