It would be a journey of over 80 miles (120km), to travel by foot would take at least four days, but Joseph also had to take account of a number of serious causes for concern. He and Mary talked long into the night, and while Mary was insistent that she could walk the whole way, Joseph had already noticed how tired she was getting as each day progressed. By evening time she would be exhausted and many mornings she would still be feeling nauseous and queasy, even though her first three months had long since passed. ‘No, Mary’, insisted Joseph, as she nestled into the crook of his arms, ‘we don’t know how long this journey will take, the roads will be busy, the inns will be full, we must prepare for a longer travel time south, I would say a week at least’. Mary was too tired to argue, but she did not look forward to travelling through blazing heat by day, and bone-seeping cold at night. Still she trusted God, and her new husband, smiling to herself each time she thought of the word – husband.
There was much to prepare in terms of food, bedding and everything else they might need should the baby decide to arrive early. Mary’s mother fussed over the details, trying to hide her worries and fears. Her parents now fully accepted God’s special calling on their daughter’s life, but it was not at all easy to let her go. They could see the love that was deepening between Mary and Joseph, and they were thankful for the freedom to show off their clearly growing grandchild. But they too knew of the dangers before them, the busy roads would not always protect them from the bandits and brigands who would come down from the lonely hillsides, mingle with the crowds, identifying those they could isolate and harm. They also worried about where the couple would sleep, there would not be sufficient monies for registering for the census (a hidden form of taxation) and staying at the various inns along the way; those inns had probably already increased their prices in preparation for the unexpected opportunity to gain from the will of Caesar Augustus.
On the morning before the planned day of departure, Mary’s father brought Joseph to the gateway of the village. There he introduced him to a man who had a donkey to sell. ‘My son Joseph has need of a sturdy donkey for the journey ahead’, he announced, much to Joseph’s surprise and slight dismay; He and Mary had already agreed they could not afford such extravagance. But Mary’s father hadn’t finished, ‘As part of Mary’s dowry, I wish to present him with your finest donkey my friend, one that will bring my family safely home!’ It was nobly done, removing any sense of embarrassment and reminding Joseph that this donkey was as much for his daughter as for the carrying of Joseph’s tools of his trade. Tools he would certainly need over the coming weeks should the baby arrive while they were away.
Mary’s heart soared when she saw her two beloved men return with a fine sturdy donkey, but her heart was all the more pleased at the new bond of friendship and mutual respect that was clearly growing between her father and her husband. It took some discussions by all of them to convince her that she must ride atop the donkey. She had made her journey south to Elizabeth by foot she exclaimed. It was her mother who won her over, when she remarked, ‘Yes you did, daughter, so why feel you must continue to prove yourself, you carry precious cargo and will need all your strength to deliver him safely back to us!’