The longest journey
BY GENERAL JOHN LARSSON –
Christmas is a time for making journeys. The travel agencies know that at Christmas there will be a rush for bookings. Air flights are full. Seats are hard to get. Ferries, trains and buses fill up with people who are travelling to see family and friends. The roads are busier than ever.
The first Christmas was also a time of travelling. Joseph and Mary made the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to take part in the census. It was a difficult trek of many days. With Mary expecting her first-born child, it must have been an anxious time for them both. For them Christmas involved a long journey.
Christmas meant a journey also for the shepherds who were living out in the field keeping watch over their flocks. When the host of angels appeared to them they said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened.” For them it was not a long walk. But even for the shepherds Christmas included a journey.
The wise men are famous for the long journey they made to see the child born to be king. They lived far away in the east. When they saw the star they followed it, riding on camels. Christmas for them meant a long, a very long journey.
What about the angels? There was the chief angel who was entrusted with the task of making the great announcement to the shepherds about Jesus’ birth. There was the “great company of the heavenly host” (Luke 2:13)–angels who praised God and sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace” (Luke 2:14). Did they have to make a journey to be there?
We don’t know a great deal about where angels live or what their travel arrangements are! But I can imagine that when the angels received their instructions from God, they set out for the fields outside Bethlehem. Even for the angels, Christmas involved a journey. Perhaps an immensely long one.
But on the first Christmas Day the longest journey by far was the journey of the Christ Child Himself. He made the journey all the way from heaven to earth!
We can only stand in awe when we think of God sending His own Son from heaven as a gift to the world. In heaven Jesus was a royal figure. He was “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). And yet on Christmas Day He was prepared to leave that heavenly glory and become a human child–a child for whom there was not even room at the inn.
By taking the longest journey of all, Jesus went from eternity into time. He went from divinity to humanity. He went from the power of the King of kings to the helplessness of a babe.
He came to show us what God is like. He came to tell us that God is a God of compassion, who knows and cares for each one of us. He came that we might have life, and life in all its fullness. And we would never have known that had Jesus not taken the longest journey of all on Christmas Day–the journey that brought Him right down to us.
We may not be able to explain it all. I doubt whether the shepherds could have explained the doctrine of God taking on human form. I doubt whether Joseph and Mary could have put into words what was happening. Perhaps not even the wise men or the angels would have been able to explain the Christmas story.
But it is not through understanding that the Christmas message becomes real to us. It becomes real to us when we do what the shepherds and wise men did. It is when we kneel down before the Christ Child and open our hearts in worship that we begin to glimpse the wonder of it all. It is when we bring the gifts of our love and adoration that the miracle begins to happen.
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15) exclaimed Paul as he thought of the Christ Child in the crib. We too can only be astonished as we kneel and worship Him who is God’s gift beyond words. Let this be our prayer this Christmas: Thank you, Jesus, for taking the longest journey of all on Christmas Day!