Each year, during the season of
Advent, the church sets off on a journey. We begin to prepare our hearts and our
minds for the coming of the Christ-child, so that this time he will have a
proper place to be born.
And we think we know the way to Bethlehem. We can find it on the map. It's not that far from Jerusalem, by today's standards; shouldn't be a problem.
But the problem is that so much has changed since our last visit. A whole year has passed, a year that brought many changes in our lives, some of them good, some of them not so good, some of them heartbreaking. The geographic map of life has changed, and even old familiar places don't seem the same any more. So maybe we could use a little help in finding our way back to Bethlehem this year. That is, if you still want to go.
If we were to ask any of the writers of the gospels how to get to Bethlehem, I think we might be surprised by their answer.
"So you want to go to Bethlehem, do you? Tell you what to do: go on out to the desert, outside of the relatively safe confines of Jerusalem. Keep going till you get to the Jordan River. You'll know it when you see it. It’s the only river around these parts. You'll find a man there – strange looking old coot – standing knee-deep in the water, just baptizing folks left and right, as fast as he can. That'll be John the Baptist. You ask him how to get to Bethlehem. If you want to get to Bethlehem, you have to start there at the Jordan with John. He's the only one who can help you get there.... .
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