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Special Feature

Light the World, Week 4: Light your Faith
December 18, 2018
Special Feature
Light the World, Week 4: Light your Faith
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“The Chronicles of Mary and Joseph: Part 3 of 4, Joseph and Mary,” by S. Kent Brown, from The Testimony of Luke, part of the BYU New Testament Commentary series
As with Mary’s trip to Elisabeth’s home months before, for safety Mary and Joseph travel in the company of others. It is a necessity. They likely go southward through the Jordan Valley to Jericho, then make the long westward climb toward Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The alternate route runs through the Samaritan hill country, a winding road with a lot of ups and downs. Because the season is evidently early spring, others are arriving in Jerusalem and its environs for Passover. This is a reasonable explanation for the filled inn that Luke writes about (Luke 1:7). In reality, the term translated “inn” can point to a caravan serai-like structure with open stalls that look out into a large, open area where a cooking fire is kept burning. It can also be translated “guest chamber” as it is in Luke 22:11, meaning a guest room on top of a home. Because relatives probably still reside in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph may well have gone to their homes for a place to rest and sleep, and found the guest rooms full with other visitors or family members. This sense may well lie behind the Joseph Smith Translation’s “inns” in this passage. In any event, they find a private place for Jesus’ birth among someone’s animals, whether a cave or the bottom section of a house.

A much later, unreliable account puts a midwife at Mary’s side when she gives birth to the infant Jesus. We simply do not know whether a midwife is present to help. Joseph knows the birth process from observing it among animals in Nazareth; he may even have helped an animal’s birth on occasion. He is fully able to assist Mary if needed. Whatever the case, all the verbs in verse seven describe Mary’s actions, pointing to her physical strength: “she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger” (Luke 2:7). What Mary and Joseph seem not to know, of course, is that a celebration is taking place not far from Bethlehem where “the angel of the Lord” has come to “shepherds abiding in the field” (Luke 2:8–9). Alone with the new child, Joseph and Mary settle down after Mary’s labor and delivery when, with the barest of instructions about what to look for, the shepherds arrive. It is then that the new parents learn, from others, that God is truly watching over them and their son.

“The Chronicles of Mary and Joseph: part 4 of 4, Bethlehem and Beyond”, by S. Kent Brown, from The Testimony of Luke, part of the BYU New Testament Commentary series
Matthew’s Gospel guides us into the events that follow Joseph’s and Mary’s visit to the Jerusalem temple. During the six weeks between Jesus’ birth and Mary’s sacrifice in the temple, Joseph seems to have secured needed housing for his young family, perhaps through family members. For Matthew writes of “the house”(Matthew 2:11).From this point, it seems that Mary and Joseph settle into a rhythm in Bethlehem. Joseph likely plies his considerable skills as an “artisan” who works with wood, stone, and metal in the ongoing temple renovations.This is the proper understanding of the Greek term tektōn which is translated “carpenter” in Matthew 13:55.

How long this little family stays in Bethlehem, we cannot say. The only definite time marker that we possess is the notice “from two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16). Hence, it appears that Jesus is at least a year old, perhaps a few months older, when Herod receives the “wise men from the east” (Matthew 2:1).