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The Christmas Journey

The Christmas Journey

3.5 13
by Donna VanLiere

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The eighty-mile journey of a common carpenter and a simple peasant girl is one of the most powerful stories in history. As books go out of print and stories fade from memory, the journey of Joseph and Mary and her delivery inside a common barn continues to bless and inspire hope in people around the world. Donna VanLiere’s retelling shows that the story of


The eighty-mile journey of a common carpenter and a simple peasant girl is one of the most powerful stories in history. As books go out of print and stories fade from memory, the journey of Joseph and Mary and her delivery inside a common barn continues to bless and inspire hope in people around the world. Donna VanLiere’s retelling shows that the story of the Nativity is alive in our modern world.

Editorial Reviews


Donna VanLiere's The Christmas Journey is short yet poignant, and does indeed reinvoke the wonderment of the season.

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Macmillan Audio
Publication date:
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7.82(w) x 11.80(h) x 0.32(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Christmas Journey

By Donna VanLiere, Michael Storrings

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2010 Donna VanLiere
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-4553-0


The Christmas Journey

* * *

They have to go. They have no choice. Emperor Caesar Augustus has issued a decree that a census will be taken of the entire Roman world to aid in military drafting and tax collection. Although the Jews do not have to serve in the Roman army, but since they are obligated to pay taxes to Rome, everyone will have to go and register at the place of their ancestral home. For Joseph's family it would be over seventy miles and a four-to-seven-day walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the town of his ancestors. It's not going to be an easy journey either, considering the shape Mary is in. She is nine months pregnant and will have to make the trip that winds through wilderness, desert, and mountainside, sitting sidesaddle on a donkey and feeling every rock and bump along the way.

* * *

Joseph leads the donkey out of the village at dawn. Mary's eyes are heavy, but he spent a sleepless night and has been awake for hours waiting for light. The smell of fish and eggs cooking on morning fires saturates the street with a misty fog as families prepare for breakfast. Joseph's stomach rumbles as he packs the donkey. He should have eaten more but is anxious to get on the road. His eyes meet Mary's as he helps her onto the donkey. He nods and she smiles in the half-light. Joseph walks beside the donkey, and although he does not look at them, he feels the eyes of his neighbors as they pass. The chattering of three women drawing water ceases as he and Mary go by, and Mary keeps her head down. She has long known what they think of her. The laughter of two men mending a fishing net subsides to a whisper as the donkey approaches, and children stop playing in the street when their mothers clack their tongues and snap their fingers.

Joseph sets his jaw and ignores them, relieved to get away for a while. The angel of God had visited him and Mary about this baby, but he hadn't visited everyone in town. Joseph has heard the townspeople ridicule Mary. He has seen them point and then turn away, ostracizing her with their clenched teeth and cold shoulders. "Perversion," they have said. "Prostituted under the nose of her father." The gossiped indictments and whispered innuendoes have seeped under every doorway. The conception was not cloaked in anonymity. Everyone knew her name. They knew her father and mother's name. Joseph's own heart has throbbed with a dull pain for weeks, and looking at Mary, he wonders how someone so young is able to bear the burden of such a stigma.

Mary lays her hands on her swollen belly. The baby dropped into the birth canal days ago, causing increasing discomfort. A chill clings to the shadows that stretch over the sleepy town, and Joseph places a thin blanket over Mary's legs. The morning echoes grow distant as they thread their way out of town, and Joseph's tensions ease.

"Are you well?" he asks.

"I am," she says, smiling, rubbing her stomach. "He is no longer stirring but is heavy inside."

Joseph forces a smile and quickens his steps. What if she gives birth on the side of a mountain? What if the baby comes in the middle of the wilderness? What would he do? Who could help him? Several families from Nazareth are traveling in caravans on the road ahead and behind them, but Joseph does not feel he can rely on them for help. He has never felt so isolated in his life.

They are quiet as the sun rises. There is so much to discuss, so many questions to ask, but neither of them is ready. Thoughts swirl in their minds as the donkey clop-clops his way over the terrain. The valley is a canvas of windblown grass swimming with wildflowers and fruit trees. Mary does not pick any fruit yet; there would be more opportunities on the journey. The smell of balsam fills the air, and Mary takes a deep breath, the scent reminding her of childhood playtime on the hills surrounding her home.

The road ahead is full of twists and turns as lush valley turns to chalky dirt and then rock. Mary is jostled about on the donkey, and a flashing pain takes her breath. She reaches for her back, attempting to ease the hurt, but there it is again. She leans forward on the donkey and holds her breath till the ache passes. It seems so long ago that she was baking bread in her home, a young girl giggling with her mother and teasing her siblings. Was it only nine months ago? Mary smiles, her mind swirling with sweet childlike noises from her parent's home.

She moves her hand over her abdomen. There was no longer a plate set for her at her parent's table. Her place of rest beside her sister was now empty. They would no longer whisper into the night, sharing girlish secrets and stories. She closes her eyes and breathes deeply. It is still too much to comprehend that the promise of God is enfleshed in her womb, dependent upon her for life.

* * *

In a small village, Joseph helps Mary to the ground, where women are picking over fruit in the marketplace. He leads the donkey to a trough filled with water. Mary stretches and arches her back. "Are you hungry?" she asks.

"Always," Joseph says, taking off his sandals.

She unwraps some bread and fish she brought from home. These foods always travel well, and she hopes she has packed enough for their trip. She reaches into a satchel for some figs and a pomegranate they picked outside the village.


Excerpted from The Christmas Journey by Donna VanLiere, Michael Storrings. Copyright © 2010 Donna VanLiere. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

DONNA VANLIERE is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Christmas Hope books and Angels of Morgan Hill.

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The Christmas Journey 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
SnooKAY More than 1 year ago
BEWARE: 20 pages for 9.99 ???
sunnytbear More than 1 year ago
I have read other books by this author and was delighted to find a new Christmas story by her. Unfortunately, I in my haste to purchase this eBook, I did not notice it was only 24 pages long. The price was no indication, as it was a regular full price eBook. I was disappointed, not in the story, but the value. Know what you are getting for $10!
ChristysBookBlog More than 1 year ago
The Christmas Journey by Donna VanLiere is a thin book, perfect for getting you ready for the holidays. Accompanied by stunning watercolors by Michael Storrings, she retells the classic story of the journey to Bethlehem and nativity through the eyes of Mary and Joseph, making them real people with fears, hopes, and dreams. Reading the story of two young people put into an impossible situation and how they trusted God to carry them through it is inspiring. VanLiere, who is best known for her Christmas Hope series that began with The Christmas Shoes, keeps to the point, reminding readers that Jesus, who created the world, became a baby who hungered and cried and smiled. Even in the midst of the busy holiday season, there is time to read this book and remember what Christmas is all about.
Debbie-T More than 1 year ago
the cost is way too high for a book that can be read in 10 mins.
BarbaraRichards More than 1 year ago
In the spirit of the holiday season, this is the one story that you should share with your family. Though the story of the birth of Jesus has been told many times, this is a wonderful retelling of the story. What is amazing is that my other favorite book lately has been "When God Stopped Keeping Score," an intimate look at the power of God and forgiveness and the sacrifice that Jesus made to save our souls. Amazing.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Every year the Christmas season seems to come earlier and earlier as the stores decorate even co-mingling with Thanksgiving as the Yuletide is a big sales time. Pageants are everywhere displaying the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and especially the nativity scene as Joseph and pregnant Mary found no room at the inn, but the owner allowed them to stay in a stable. This is the sentimental legend, but not the true story as another example of when "Professor" Wuhl's theory (extracted from Who Shot Liberty Valance?) that "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend" (see Assume the Position). The couple travels seventy miles taking several days to complete the trek. As they depart from Nazareth, Joseph notices that people he knew all his life as friends treat Mary like a pariah because Mary became pregnant while living under her father's roof. They leave as outcasts in accordance to the then Laws of Moses. Their journey proves grueling with Mary feeling each step the donkey takes. She fears what is expected of her raising the Son; while he fears being the father to the Savior as he believes he cannot be worthy of having God bestow such an honor on him. When they reach their destination, the crowds are overwhelming and there is no place for them at the inn. Joseph feels overwhelmed because he has to help Mary deliver but though conditions are extremely poor, Mary gives birth to a healthy Savior. Donna VanLiere 's version of one of the most legendary journeys provides a realistic look at the two travelers as a pregnant Mary rides a donkey for seventy miles (I rode a mule years ago down the Grand canyon for a few hours and that was fun but a bit sore). The trek is dirty and dusty while people they know along their path ignore them The illustrations augment the story as Ms. VanLiere adds the human facts normally ignored by the miracle birth. Harriet Klausner
lynnzebrastamper More than 1 year ago
This was a very enjoyable read. Donna has put out a great story of the Nativity from Joseph's point of view.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was a little dissapointed because I like to buy a new Christmas book every year to add to my collection for my grandchildren. However, this story of Mary includes some details about Mary's labor and delivery that may not be suitable for children. If this were a movie, it would need to be rated PG-13 - maybe PG. With that being said, it is true that the story of the birth of Christ has been glamorized and cleaned up. This author does give a more realistic look at a royal birth in a stinky, dirty stable. I do appreciate that about the story. I have been guilty of not recognizing the true nature of Christ's birth. Other than some "realistic" details about the birth, I can recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
mrsred49 More than 1 year ago
This is a beautiful book with illustrations and the story of Jesus' birth. It starts out with Luke 2: 1-20 resiting the story from the Bible. Then she tells of how the world has turned the birth of Jesus into a commerical money making part of the year. Then Donna goes into the real meaning of Christmas and the way she thinks it really happened over two thousand years ago. I believe the way Donna writes that the birth happened in a dirty stable with stinking animals as she and Joseph had to stay in there with them. Mary was so young and (so was I ) when I had my first son, that she had no idea of the pain it would be to give birth to this great Savior. She had to go through being talked about because she was with child before she was married and Joseph still listened to the angel and married her so that he could be the earthly father to Jesus. This is just a beautiful book that everyone needs a copy and leave it out so anyone coming into your home can pick it up as it does not take long to read. This book tells of the real meaning of Christmas, thanks so much Donna for writing it for us to read and to Anne of Authors on the Web for sending it to be to review. May God bless each one of you as this special time of the year approaches (we really don't know the time of the year Jesus was born) but this is the time we celebrate His birth, and please remember (THE REASON FOR THE SEASON).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago