A Chinese saying reminds us: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Tonight our ancient story reminds us that we are on a journey. It is said that 45% are traveling during the December holidays; from across town to across the country to be with loved ones.
It is good for us to remember that the story of Jesus’ birth is all about journey. People are on the move. Mary hurries to the hill country home of her kinswoman, Elizabeth. Then as Mary’s pregnancy advances, she and Joseph must journey to Bethlehem in order to fulfill the taxation laws of Rome. Then the shepherds go to Bethlehem see what this thing is that the angel hosts have proclaimed. The prize for the most “frequent travelers” miles goes to the wise men, traveling a long distance from the east.
Why all this going to and fro? Couldn’t God have sent Jesus to a nice, safe house, where Mary could relax, take care of the baby, entertain guests with all their ooos and ahhhs over their firstborn little boy? And what about Joseph; how was a man going to earn a living if he has to take months off the job? What where Joseph and Mary to think of their visitors – on one hand, there’s the poorest of the poor, shepherds – unclean, smelly, uneducated who pop over from the nearby field – then there are these exotic, learned men – foreigners also considered outside the Jewish law -- traveled a great distance at the behest of a star. All have the same goal. A journey to worship the holy one, the son of God.
It’s a reminder to us: in this life, we are on a journey. We are called forth. For some of us the journey is instantaneous. Faith is there, palpable and we fall on our knees and it’s a thousand miles in a second. For others, the journey is longer. We must leave behind the comforts of the familiar, travel new roads, the miles measured in months, years before we encounter this Holy Child. From wherever we are, we are called forth. Love is about change. There’s not a new mother or father I know, all these years, whose lives weren’t turned upside down, sideways by their little buddle of joy. Anyone of us who has fallen in love will tell of the desire to do better for the person they love. There isn’t a person of conscience I’ve met who hasn’t demanded change in the face of injustice.
Love is like that. Love is the journey we are on, both inward and outward. Love calls us, in angel voices, in dreams, in a newborn’s cry, and we are wired to respond. From the island of Selfishness to join the land of generous giving. From a place of isolation to caring community (notice it just wasn’t one wise man or one shepherd ) the journey of love requires company. That’s why we tell so many parts of the Christmas story. We need to hear it all. All the ways love journeys around us.
We are on a journey tonight. We’ve taken a step. We’ve came here for a reason. Not just to hear beautiful music. To sing, To hear scriptures. To light candles. Actually some of us have come tired, lonely, maybe with some doubt. No matter; we came because love has beckoned us from deep in our hearts. This we know to be true: that Jesus has made a long, arduous journey, to be here just for us. A journey so we may know: that we are loved. No matter where you’ve journeyed down life’s ways. You are here. And so is love. To help us journey on: To help us love deeper. To give more generously. To open our hearts to new friends and strangers. It’s just one step at a time. Over time. We’ll get there. Hold this baby, ever so close. As you leave, take him with you. And he will take you places you’ve never dreamed of in this New Year forward.
Merry, Christmas. Amen.