Mary and Joseph, the Magi and the shepherds were all called away from where they were and from what they were doing to come to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus. They did not know the word Christmas, but they answered the call issued through soldiers, stars and angels to journey to the city of David. These original Christmas Pilgrims were forever changed by the experience.
What does it mean to you? Have you been called away from all the busyness and pressure of the Christmas season to experience the truth about the birth of Jesus? Has the fact of Jesus coming into the world changed you?
I doubt that it is possible to see and know what Jesus’ birth means in a hurry or in a crowd. Our hurry-up, do more, filled-to-overflowing days are incompatible with contemplation and reflection. It is only in stillness and calm that we find truth and learn how it affects our lives.
Do you find, as I do, that the frantic pace of modern life is detrimental to your spiritual health? We are all so busy that the idea of spending daily, quiet, quality time with God just seems impossible. We all sing the same refrain: “I just do not have time.” But we may need to admit to ourselves that an impossibly crowded schedule makes poor soil in which to grow a healthy, productive spiritual life.
Finding a place to be alone for a little while may also be a challenge. Some people thrive in crowds while others wilt. Whatever your reaction to being in a crowd might be, few of us are privileged to spend much time alone. The people with whom we live and work every day can be channels of blessing from God; they can also block intended blessings. A wise pilgrim knows he needs company along the way as well as some solitude.
Why is this pilgrimage a solitary one? Going to Bethlehem to look in the manger is an intensely personal matter. The fact of Jesus’ birth is one thing. But the impact of that fact on your life is something more. It’s not enough to know how the events at Bethlehem changed the world or even how the birth of that baby affected others. Christmas Pilgrims also need to see how they may be be personally changed by Mary’s child.