For many, the Christmas season means spending a great deal of time traveling: a dozen trips in the car battling the traffic to the mall, the annual airline flight to visit the grandparents, or the 10-hour bus ride home from college. Time on the road or waiting in a terminal is synonymous with celebrating Christmas. It makes sense, since travelling has always been a part of Jesus’ birth. I am thinking about a young couple named Mary and Joseph, who were required to travel roughly ninety miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. To put it in perspective, it would be like walking from Dorchester to Hartford.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. Luke 2:1-3
Sometimes, we might think that the demands upon us to travel are beyond our control and we chafe at the expectation. That may have been how Mary and Joseph felt. Caesar Augustus thought he had a good idea in counting everyone in his realm and raise taxes to increase his kingdom. Because he was the dictator of the entire Rome world, he could do anything he wanted. So they went, on foot, despite the fact that Mary was ‘heavy laden with child’. God had a plan for them, and God often has a plan for us.
Sometimes, we might think that the destination of our travel plans are outside our comfort zone. That could have been how Joseph and Mary felt as they awkwardly advanced toward Bethlehem together. It was an uncomfortable situation: they were pledged to be married but had yet to have the ceremony when it was obvious that they were expecting. Mary was in an uncomfortable condition: can you imagine walking 15 miles a day for 6 days while 9 months pregnant? God was guiding their every step, and God is also guiding ours.
God may be leading us to places out of our control and beyond our comfort because there are people in those places that need the hope, the joy and the love that appeared in its fulness for the first time in Bethlehem. There are people in parking lots and registers who need a smile and a warm greeting. There are people frustrated by missed connections or missing luggage that could benefit from an act of kindness and a candy cane. The roads and airways are filled with inconsiderate and self-centered travelers; perhaps God could use you to offer those around you common courtesy and Christmas cheer.
Wherever God has you travelling this month, whether it be across the room, across the street or across the country, know that God has a purpose in your journey – to bring forth a witness to God’s grace, mercy and love to those who may not experience it otherwise. We could choose to follow Mary and Joseph’s example and remain faithful to God wherever He may lead us. We could choose to share the delight of knowing the light that shines in the darkness, the hope of nations, the King of Kings and the prince of peace.
May we go wherever we go with gladness and may the gifts arrive unbroken.
My family and I have been on a road trip for the last ten days. We have spent a lot of time in hotel rooms and we have enjoyed their many amenities – the pool, the continental breakfasts, the free coffee, the housekeeping services, etc. It is great to live in a hotel. Nothing (other than covering the cost of the room) is my problem: If I run out of clean towels, I call the front desk; if the television doesn’t work, I call the front desk; if I need another pillow, I call the front desk. Life in a hotel is nearly perfect.
There’s only one thing wrong with living in a hotel: it is not home. Despite the fact that I don’t have to cook my own eggs or make my own bed in the hotel, I would choose those chores and the dozen others that are part of ordinary life to be home. At home I have my own bed that enables me to sleep soundly. At home I have all the things to which I have become accustomed, like an HDTV with all the channels I watch and know. At home I have all my clothing and culinary choices at my disposal, not just what is in the suitcase or vending machine. There are aspects of life that cannot be found at the Comfort Inn or Hyatt Place.
[Jesus said,] “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:2-3
In a number of ways, our earthly existence is much like living in a hotel. We experience the basic comforts of life – shelter, rest and refreshment – but nothing we use to secure these comforts are truly our possessions. We are able to experience new and different blessings but they are not truly consistent or predictable. We also experience the frustrations of our limited resources and long for the day that we truly have all the time, space and clean clothing we need. Whether we recognize it from an earthly perspective as we sit in a hotel room with 5 other people or from an eternal perspective as we sit in a church or hospital or funeral parlor: we all long to go home.
The good news for me and my family is that we are headed home. We’ve had a wonderful time with family, enjoying a great visit and a beautiful wedding. We had a great time, just the 6 of us as we travelled 2,600 miles (we even got to see Charlie Daniels fiddle to his finest) and spent a large amount of time in close proximity with one another. We have a few more hours in hotels and on the interstate and then we’ll be where we belong. We are headed home.
I can only imagine another day, another season, when I will be going home. On that day there will be no more rented rooms or tents to shelter my soul; I will be ushered into the home my Savior prepared and appointed for my pleasure. All the things I long for and desire will be afforded me and I will rest in peace. Living in these hotel rooms has made me long for home, however long it may take to get there. And I long to see you there, too.