The air is cold and still… The world is nearing the end of a long spell of homesickness… The hush in the night is a waiting rather than a memory… Once more the time nears for my yearly journey to Bethlehem…
The preparations for the journey, I knew, would be longer this year because I had to rid myself of the bag gage of another year of my years… I would have to begin by throwing away things which would weight me down… The little worries and fears over the future, the books I had read, the small ambitions which en crusted my life, the vanity of soul and pride of heart, the heavy burden of little faith, the hidden hurt of many broken things… These I could not carry on the journey to the Child… There might be room for them in the inn, but not at the manger…
For when I would finally reach the last rise in the long road from the depth of my years to Bethlehem, white in the light of an errant star, I knew I would want to travel light… The stable would be as small as ever and already filled with several beasts of the field, a few shepherds, and a great company from the ends of the earth and the expanses of time…
I knew I would not be able to enter with baggage like mine… No one ever has… We can and must climb Calvary with the burden of our sins… But at the manger they are put far from us… Here the journey ends in the light and joy of adoration… Here light and childlike hearts alone have eyes to see God in a little boy…
This is a long journey for us who are so far down the ways of time… Long in mind and long in heart… A number of years ago, on the eleventh of November, I stood with thousands of men and women on State Street in Chicago as the clock struck eleven and bugles sounded taps for the dead… The thin, bent shoulders of an old woman beside me shook with memories brought to life by the sound of the bugles…
The muted bugles brought back memories of war which strike most cruelly at the hearts of the mothers of the world…. Memories of a voice of a son which has now become a silence in her heart… Of an agony for her dead child in whom are all the dead children of the world… I turned away and entered a shop which was already bright with signs of Christmas… Candles, evergreens, holly, poinsettias, stars, little churches, angels…
I had taken a dozen steps from the remembered sorrow we have made of the world toward a few signs of the joy He has brought… A dozen steps on foot… But the journey of the heart from sorrow to joy is the longest journey any man can make… A journey through the lighted dead of night to God in a manger… Into the holy peace and joy for which thousands of weary eyes will be looking through their tears as the December dusk falls over the world this Christmas Eve… A journey of the heart from the pride of the world and the power of war into the humility and poverty of a manger… The journey into ultimate joy…
It is this journey into great joy which I, by the mercy of God, shall begin this Christmas Eve… On one glowing night of all time, all the joy of the world was in a manger… The joy of God breaking through the darkness of our world with His marvelous light… The joy of sinners as their Savior draws near… The joy in the beat of angel wings… The joy of hiding majesty in meekness, life in death, God in man… Of the Child wrapped in the swaddling clothes of our lowliness come to take us up in royal robes to His Father…
On this Christmas Eve I must again become childlike in heart… I must wait for Him to come, because the journey to the Child is finally a waiting for Him… The shepherds are with me, and the angels, and Mary and Joseph… And the Child comes to the childlikeness He makes in us…
That is why Christmas is sometimes called the Feast of Children… For the little ones who sing the carols unafraid keep Christmas best… Wesley Ingles writes “For Young Mothers at Christmas”…
Take you the holly and wreathe it gladly for His brow
That once were thorn And let the little scarlet drops remind you now
That once His brow was torn.
Take up the tree and gently, gently plant its stock
And nail its base Recall how rudely His was planted hear the shock.
And see His anguished face.
Take now the children’s gift s and pile them neatly there;
Take all the toys. Consider Golgotha and breathe an earnest prayer
For new-born little boys.
Mark A. Noll
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