Have you ever wondered why? Why would Joseph take such a long journey, when Mary was clearly in no condition to travel? I've been on a few bumpy tractor rides in my day, relatively close to my due date, and let me tell you - that was no picnic. Why would Joseph take her far from her home, her family, her women relatives and friends who would likely be the ones to assist her in her hour of need?
Well, there was this census, you see. Joseph and Mary had to go there to register.
Or did they?
In the Middle East, men usually represent their families in any official or legal matters. Why did Joseph take Mary with him to Bethlehem for the registration? The easiest explanation is that he was unsure what might happen to her if he left her in Nazareth without his presence to protect her. It behooves us to see Joseph as a hero of the story without whose courage and understanding of the prophets there would have been no Christmas story to tell. (Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, Kenneth O. Bailey, p.46)The picture of Joseph, protector of his bride, is a new one to me. Mary was known in Nazareth - known as the one who was with child while betrothed. Not an honorable position; recall the taunts of those in Jesus' own hometown, "Isn't this Mary's son?" What could have happened to her - the supposed unfaithful one - without her faithful husband's protection? Recall the Old Testament penalty for adultery. . . . . .
To me - this is yet another remarkable instance of God's providence. To give Mary such a husband, such a man, that in his integrity, care, and faithfulness he would take her on a most difficult journey, a journey that would result in her Son being born in the city from which the promised Messiah would hail. . . . . . . . only a sovereign Lord. Another detail in the marvelous Christmas story that just astounds me.
And by way of recommendation, Kenneth Bailey's book, Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes is simply fascinating. Not a light read, but sheds amazing light on the gospels when seen in light of the Middle Eastern culture and customs of Jesus' time. If you receive any gift certificates, I'd highly recommend it.