Monday's headline in the local newspaper in very large letters proclaimed "Yule travel more likely" with a subheading advising that the number of holiday travelers this year may break all records!
I'm sure there will come a day when my kids, while reflecting on shared memories of past Christmases, will tell tales of our annual holiday road trips to visit their Grandmother in Nebraska. They won't remember much about gifts given or received, instead they'll recall images of our Dodge minivan and their endless negotiating and horse-trading over the coveted "way-back" bench seat, and they'll definitely remember our blue "cooler" which contained the mother-lode of sandwiches, cookies, and other snacks which sustained our journey westward (whoever said an army marches on its stomach should have extended that wisdom to include kids and road trips). Then there's the whole issue of bad weather. Try as we might to be flexible on scheduling a 700 mile trip west in late December to the open prairies of central Nebraska sometimes involved some difficult decision making. There were good decisions, such as when we delayed our departure and then spent the next day driving across Iowa on a bright sunny day, counting the dozens of cars stranded after spinning off an icy I-80 the day before. There were also questionable calls like the one where we thought we had successfully executed an early morning escape from icy roads in Nebraska only to end up driving the last 300 miles of Iowa and Illinois at night in a snowstorm, at one point narrowly avoiding a car spinning across both lanes directly in front of us.
As I recall some of the memories of our road trips, I can't help but turn to thoughts of the original Christmas road trip, the trip made necessary by a royal edict from Rome.....
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 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 trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem was about 70 miles and according to historians would have taken perhaps as long as a week of difficult travel, difficult because of poor trails, hilly terrain, perhaps cold, wet weather, and of course made even more difficult because of Mary's condition on the brink of delivering her first-born child. According to Reverend Peter Vasko, a Catholic priest and director of the Holy Land Foundation, Mary and Joseph would have had to bring their own provisions.
"In wineskins, they carried water, and they carried a lot of bread. . . . Breakfast would be dried bread, lunch would be oil with bread, and herbs with oil and bread in the evening."
Even today in a minivan in good weather with cell phones charged and a cooler stuffed with turkey sandwiches and cookies, it's hard to imagine embarking on a week-long trip when you're on the brink of giving birth.
So whether you're going to be on the road for 5 miles or 500 this Christmas, take care, be safe, make good decisions, and reflect on the simple story of the journey of Mary and Joseph which culminated in the birth of a child, a birth that was destined to change the world forever.
May God bless you and your loved ones!