We arrived safely at our Christmas destination. Wind gusts over 40 mph for the last 250 miles were the only unpleasant surprises along our way. Upon arrival we were greeted with big smiles and open arms, given a room to call our own while we are here, and invited to help ourselves to whatever we wanted.
As we traveled, my mind wandered to other journeys and other people.
First, travelers from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1 and 2:
- Zechariah went to serve in the temple. I’m guessing he left his wife at home. Since they had no children and were in advanced in years, she may have been alone.
- Mary “hurried” to visit Elizabeth. It seems she went by herself. Walking or riding a beast of burden? Was it far or dangerous? Why did she go? How did she expect to be received? Elizabeth loudly blurted out a blessing as she greeted Mary with open arms; it was indeed an “extravagant welcome” (as noted this morning by the pastor at Mayflower UCC, Billings).
- Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem, as ordered by Caesar Augustus. An uncomfortable journey, I imagine, for Mary and her betrothed. Often pictured today with a donkey, but there is no such creature mentioned in the text. When they arrived, there was no space for them in the “inn” – probably not so much a place to rent a room (i.e., not a hotel or a B&B) but rather the guestroom in the family home (perhaps occupied by earlier arriving extended family). They made do in the space – likely attached to the home – where the animals were kept. Perhaps they were not quite the outcasts that I have often imagined!
- Shepherds, after hearing astonishing news from an angel, rushed off to visit the newborn child.
- Mary and Jesus took the baby Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord as prescribed in the law of Moses. They were joyfully greeted by Simeon and then by Anna.
That’s it. Those are the journeys connected to Jesus’ birth as recorded by Luke.
Next, travelers associated with the birth of Jesus as noted in the Gospel of Matthew:
- Magi from the east journeyed to Jerusalem and then to Bethlehem to honor “the newborn king of the Jews.”
- Joseph heeded a dream to avoid Herod’s wrath and so he took the child and his mother to Egypt – a family fleeing for their child’s safety.
- Eventually, Joseph took the family from Egypt to the land of Israel but it didn’t feel safe so they settled in Nazareth.
Finally, I think of travelers today and the people who will greet them along the way and at the end of the journey. I think of
- those traveling with happy, hope-filled anticipation – to share a holiday, to meet a new baby, to gather with loved ones, to connect with friends old and new;
- those who travel with heavy hearts for a final visit with one in Hospice care or for a memorial service to celebrate the life of one who has died;
- those fleeing because home is no longer is safe – refugees, immigrants, victims of domestic violence, persons who identify as LGBTQ;
- those working to help travelers long the way – staff at hotels, gas stations, restaurants, airports and train stations including security personnel, maintenance crews, janitors, highway patrols, pilots, taxi drivers, conductors, stewards, hosts/hostesses, and so many we take for granted;
- those welcoming the road-weary with a refreshing beverage, a good meal, a shower or bath, and a safe place to sleep.
May all travelers be protected on their journeys and be extravagantly welcomed at each stop along the way.