In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. (Luke 2:1-5, English Standard Version)I know we celebrate Christmas at Midwinter. Does it really matter what time of year these events actually took place? I don't know whether it was clear and cold, or raining, or snowing.
The Government made them register. They had to travel. At the worst time for her. Not in a buggy with springs above the wheels. Tradition says, on a donkey. There may have been at least three donkey rides in Jesus' life: before his birth, the flight into Egypt, and that day entering Jerusalem with hosannas and palms.
I picture Joseph as tired but competent; I imagine him with strong opinions about the government that makes them travel at that moment, but also with both the physical and the emotional strength to stay quiet and just deal with it.
I picture Mary, "Who was with child." She is nearly full term. The baby has shifted, head down, and dropped. She can breathe a bit easier, but the jostling on the donkey must have been torture.
"Joseph, I need to walk a bit for a while."
"Joseph, I need to just sit here for a while."
"Joseph, help me down."
"Joseph, help me up."
Imagine the Mother of Mercy turning a patient smile toward her betrothed, quietly breathing, "Thank you."
Some days I imagine a dry road of rock and dust. Other times I imagine days of rain turning the roads to mire and their wool and linen clothing cold and heavy.
They did what they had to do under the "benevolent" government of the Pax Romanum in order to get to the place they needed to be. They obeyed the law in order to bring the Law Giver to the place of where the history of humanity would be intersected with the plan of the Unmoved Mover.
Spring or Winter, wet or dry the weather, there was some one particular night when they got to Bethlehem. That one particular individual girl named Mary got down from that donkey at the end of the journey.