November 28, 2017
Approaching a Little Town in Judea
Recently, I passed a church with an interesting Nativity set-up. In the front yard just beyond the sidewalk were figures: Joseph was guiding a donkey, and Mary was riding on its back. A few hundred feet down the road stood the little town of Bethlehem. I thought how unique that is.
Normally, when manger scenes are set out, all the characters are in place from the start. Mary kneels at the foot of the manger, and Joseph stands behind it. The Christ Child rests on the hay. The shepherds are there, leaning on their staffs, with sheep at their feet and lambs across their shoulders. Included also are the wise men, standing or kneeling with their gifts. Camels are present with other animals too, and an angel hovers above them all. This kind of Nativity is more like a picture postcard: static, unmoving. The figures stay in position until Christmas is over, and the set is put back in storage.
But the scene I passed that morning is dynamic, breathing the very life of that first Christmas. It carries us back to a living, vibrant moment in time, the most pivotal period in all of human history. Mary and Joseph traveled down from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and Jesus traveled along with them, as He grows in Mary's womb.
The distance between Joseph and Mary and their Bethlehem destination makes me wonder what that congregation will do in the coming weeks. Will they move Mary and Joseph a little closer each day or week? Will Mary and Joseph reach the city on the 24th? Will baby Jesus be in the manger that night? Will a bright star appear over the streets of Bethlehem? Will the shepherds show up a few hours later? Will the wise men begin their travels along the sidewalk, following that guiding star?
Once again my thoughts remind me that Jesus came into this world in a definite time and place. But He didn't come to stay in that manger. He grew up and moved on -- the same way each of us passes from childhood to adulthood. And in that growing the Savior experienced first-hand what our lives are all about.
Of course, He didn't need to become human to know what it is like to live as a human on earth. As the almighty Son of God on His throne in heaven, He knew human life better than any of us. But the fact that He actually came and lived out that life changes the picture dramatically. I often find myself doing things that seem insignificant or unimportant: the endless chores, the trivial tasks to be done at work or at home. But Jesus did the same kinds of things in His life. His life gives those moments in our lives honor, dignity, and great significance.
But Jesus did one thing we can never do: He lived His life perfectly as our Substitute. And He suffered the punishment we deserve for all our failings and sins when He died in our place on the cross. The human passage of His birth, childhood, life, suffering, death, and resurrection transformed all our paths, opening for us the opportunity to live forever with our God in His glory.
Like Mary and Joseph, each of us is on a journey through life. We may be walking that path with a few close friends, or all alone. But we're never really alone; Jesus Christ travels that road with each of us.
The Christmas story is one that changes everything for each of us. What do you think about when you consider the way God entered our world, our lives, and our hearts? You can tell us by clicking here!