Posted by: pmarkrobb | November 29, 2014

Advent 2014 :: week one

We have arrived at the first Sunday of Advent and are met with a choice.  We can get swept away in the current of consumerism and commercialism or toss an anchor overboard and hold steady against it.  Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday propel us from a day of thanksgiving toward the day of our dear Savior’s birth.  What will we choose on this Sabbath that sits amidst these strong currents?  I would offer the intentional choice of Advent as a right and proper one.  Join us as we journey through the season of Advent and the incredible story of a Savior and a manger. Along the way, we’ll meet some familiar characters and ask a few questions that you may not have previously considered.  What waits for us at the end of this journey?  The “good news that will bring great joy to all people.” (Luke 2:10b NLT)

So here’s a question for you … how many miles did Mary and Joseph walk to register for the census ordered by Caesar Augustus?

This question surfaced in my preparation for one of my family’s favorite holiday traditions.  Many years ago my wife and I purchased an Advent set from a metal forge in the small town where she went to college.  It’s a treasured set that includes 25 hand-hammered aluminum ornaments, each depicting a scene or detail of the story of Jesus’ birth.  Each day our two boy’s alternate the responsibility of retrieving that day’s ornament to place on the metal display frame.  Typically my wife or I will then read the short title of the ornament and the single Bible verse from the accompanying narrative included with the set.  After a couple years of doing this, we expanded the tradition to include some discussion about each day’s scene or detail.  We wanted to engage the boys in the humanity of the story.  I didn’t just want them to hear it; I wanted them to experience it.

So, in answer to the question above, most sources I found ranged from 60-90 miles.  Absent specific biblical clarity, I decided on 66 miles for my answer to the boys that day (this was based on a particular source that seemed the most thorough and credible).  I then began charting some destinations on Google Maps to locate a city the boys would be familiar with from our own travels and ended up with Bowling Green, OH as the closest approximation.  We have driven through Bowling Green headed south on I-75 on too many occasions to count, so I knew they would have a really good sense for the scale of the trip.  There reaction was great when they were confronted with how far Mary and Joseph traveled, and how they did it on foot!  It was a great discussion that day, as there have been on other days, considering questions like: Where would our family have to travel for a census like Caesar decreed?  When did the wise men actually arrive to see Jesus?  What’s a manger?

Jesus himself, and the story of his birth, can sometimes be a bit too convenient and.  We know about Him and we know how he was born — but do we really know.  Have we spent time experiencing the characters and events of the Nativity?  Have we put ourselves inside the narrative?  Have we felt the fears of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds or the wise men by naming our own fears?  Have we questioned, “what would we have done?”  Have we walked the Bethlehem road?

Will you take some time for yourself today to treasure up all these things and ponder them in your heart (like Mary in Luke 2:19)?  Will you carve out time in your family schedule today to treasure and ponder them together?  God promises if you do, you’ll find great reward in it.

The season of Advent is an invitation, not to a specific ritual or checklist, but to an intentional treasuring and pondering.  It throws an anchor overboard and holds you steady against the current.  It allows Jesus himself and the beautiful, sacred story of his birth to come into place, view or being (the true definition of Advent).



  1. Thank you, I’m looking forward to the journey.

  2. Treasuring and Pondering. I look forward to joining with you in them. It seems that both, treasuring and pondering, take time. The busyness of the season will no doubt threaten that. Your focus on advent will be a welcome presence and challenge for us. Thanks! 🙂 Father, might we also be, as some were, “amazed” by what we hear and see as we treasure and ponder.

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