For most of my adult life, I have have lived many states away from my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. More often than not, it has not been feasible to make the trek home for Christmas to an unpredictably snowy state, thousands of miles away from where we live, with five kids in tow. The last time we did it (in 2002) we got stranded overnight on Christmas Eve about six hours from the first family stop, because of snowy and icy roads. Truthfully, it made for a fun family memory. We eventually saw all of the grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and had a blast.
Over the years though, home for Christmas has come to mean something other than a cross-country trip to a childhood home where stockings have been hung on the same mantle for as long as I can remember. Other families live in the homes of my childhood. My family is spread across the country. Our adult children live in different states and it is rare that we are all in the same place at the same time. And although we LOVE being together and make every effort to stay connected and see each other and celebrate long-distance, gathering together on December 25th under the same roof is rarely a possibility.
Places come and go. People move and get married and divorced and remarried. Kids grow up and have new families to build relationships and traditions with. But the manger — well, that has been a constant in every Christmas that I can remember. Always there has been Mary and Joseph and Jesus in our Christmas celebrations. So in a very real sense, getting to the manger each December, truly feels like I have arrived at home for Christmas. Every year I read the stories and sing the carols and listen to the sermons, and sometime around this last week of Advent, in my heart and mind, I get close to the manger and it feels like home.
What was it like for Mary and Joseph to get to Bethlehem that first Christmas? We tend to think that it was a chaotic, spur of the moment, unexpected trip for them. But what if it wasn’t? I wonder if they knew the prophecies that said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem? What if they were waiting to see how God would move them there?
Click here to listen to Week Four, Day One of Wrapped in Grace: Getting to Bethlehem.