“For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey, but only the beginning—not home, but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.”
Frederick Buechner (The Magnificent Defeat)
One of the images associated with the season of Advent, is a winding path toward Bethlehem, with Joseph leading, and Mary, exceedingly pregnant, riding on a donkey. The journey to register in the place of one's birth is a little-remembered detail in the grand story of the star, the manger, the birth of the Christ child, angels, shepherds and wise men. I am not a theologian, but I believe this detail represents the return home—back to one's roots, back to recognizing who we are and where we came from. It is also significant to me that Jesus' first journey, and his last, were aboard a donkey, the lowliest of creatures. Jesus came into the world in humble circumstances, and by choice, left by the same route.
The birth in Bethlehem brought the beginning of a new day, a new way of being, a new light of understanding. Buechner's reference to The Wizard of Oz, also records such a journey—follow the yellow brick road in order to discover, in the course of many challenges and mishaps, what you already have—a heart, a brain, and courage. And, in discovering them, return home with new eyes for what has always been, and how very good it is.
In our journey toward Christmas, let us remember where we came from, and that Bethlehem represents, not an end to our travel, but a beginning. Let us take the light of that star, and the illumination of the Christ child, back home and put it to good use.
In the Spirit,