Ten days to Bethlehem
Ten days to find our way to Bethlehem. A never-going-to-refold-like-it-first-came map is no longer the way to figure out the path. We would consider the advantages and disadvantages of following the interstates knowing the distance might actually be longer but the time shorter. Balanced with the particularities of what we might see if we took the shorter in distance but longer in time route of two-lane highways and backroads through small towns and maybe the possibility of hometown cooking restaurants and homemade pie.
With only ten days left, maybe it’s best we have GPS, on our phones, in our car computers, on a tablet. On cyber-Monday I ordered a phone holder deal for the dash/window of my truck. It’s supposed to make everything safer than trying to lay my phone on the console and look down at it or try and hold it in one hand and drive with the other. It was wonderfully inexpensive and so far my experience with it is commensurate with the price. I won’t give up. From what I understand some guys followed a star and found their way, or at least came close, maybe within 9 miles or so, before they stopped at Herod’s QuikTrip to ask directions. He had to call a couple-a pastors who directed them on to Bethlehem. Maybe I shouldn’t complain about my phone-holder with GPS.
Ten days left to reach Bethlehem, and exactly ten years ago first and second graders went to school at Sandy Hook elementary in Newton, Connecticut. Twenty of them and six of their teachers journeys to Bethlehem stopped there, right there, on that day. Actually those last nine miles that the Magi stopped at Herod’s QT with the pastors to get directions, weren’t required for them. Those angels that came to the shepherds? I think they simply took those children and their teachers the rest of the way without any more steps needed. For parents and extended families? For those that survived and the community? For the rest of us in our remembering? We’re still walking, still trying to find our way, you know, to the Prince of Peace. Ten years ago today. Ten days to get to Bethlehem. How long does it take to reach the place where violence is no longer an answer for fear at perceived or even real loss of power, of place, of position?
Ten days to reach Bethlehem. Not that long for those shepherds. The ones keeping watch over their flock by night. I do think it was the same group of angels – that showed up at Sandy Hook ten years ago today. That same multitude of the heavenly host that, after the first angel told the shepherds they didn’t need to be afraid, sang about peace on earth among all God’s beloved, favored, among all God’s people everywhere for all time. Maybe they cried first, the multitude I mean, when they arrived at Sandy Hook. Maybe that’s why they didn’t sing til later. They composed themselves while the first angel told everyone from the littlest child to the oldest teacher, they didn’t need to be afraid anymore. That it wasn’t what God had envisioned for them, but given the violence that shattered their world, God would even then not let violence define their future. Then the rest of the angels sang for them about peace – hoping we all might hear it ring through every generation in every time.
Not so much, at least not completely, but maybe a little bit? Can we hear it? The hope for peace singing? From a great distance, but it’s there, if we want to hear it. We may have to decide first that people we don’t understand and who seem so different, we may need to decide without any real evidence other than our faith, that those who are different are not out to get us. That the first angel is right, we don’t need to be afraid. We frankly need to decide that people of different races who marry and people of the same gender who marry actually don’t put our one man-one woman Caucasian marriages at risk. We absolutely need to decide that being bullies at any age toward any one isn’t an answer to our own insecurities and ultimately won’t make us feel better about ourselves or our families. And that it’s really o.k. for folks to make their journey to Bethlehem in their own way and their own time and by their own path, even when it’s vastly different than our own. Jesus is going to be there, and frankly is there, all along the way, for all of us.
Yup. Ten days left to get to Bethlehem. Maybe you already have your gold, frankincense, and myrrh all wrapped and hidden and ready to go. Maybe you’re a last minute gold, frankincense, and myrrh purchaser with full faith that between FedEx, UPS, Amazon, and DHL, you’ll get them in plenty of time on the 24th with copious instructions on how to put them together in the middle of the night before the 5 a.m. wake-up call on the 25th. However you are, with your GPS device suctioned to your dash, in the middle of a desert following a star, on hillside being serenaded by angels, or in a community and a nation reflecting on the violence 10 years ago leading up to this day, the journey to Bethlehem is worth the trip. Ten days to hear the cries from the manger, God has not given up, God has not given in, the Prince of Peace lives and is born anew. Herod’s QT is open, the pastors still have a few directions at the ready to give, the star is shining, the angels are warming up in the mass choir room, and we humans? We beloved children of God? We’re all still walking, like it or not connected together in communities of difference and diversity, toward Bethlehem.