This journey to Bethlehem was the last thing, I am sure, that Mary and Joseph wanted to do. With Mary being pregnant, they didn’t really want to make a trip, by walking or by donkey, up the mountains over 2000 feet to Bethlehem. This was a long journey of about eighty miles. Her pregnancy would make the journey slow and tiring.
It wasn’t their decision. The Roman ruler, who considered himself a god, decreed that everyone should be counted, and you had to be counted in your hometown. This meant that they had to travel to Joseph’s hometown, Bethlehem. In obedience to the decree, they went.
There isn’t any indication that they understood the significance of having their child born in Bethlehem. They both knew, through the visit of the angel, that this birth would be special, but they probably didn’t equate the birth yet with the Old Testament prophecy. That understanding would come later in life.
None of this was their plan or preference. Joseph and Mary didn’t think, most likely, that they would end up having a baby in Bethlehem. But God seems to work that way, doesn’t he? Our plans are often not his plans and his plans are far above our plans. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8–9). Luke records no complaining about this journey. Mary and Joseph had learned to quietly trust God. May God work in us the same trust.