Christmas Journeys

by Rev. Terence Groth

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“Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go.”

This poem and song, whose “dapple gray” originally pulled his sleigh-riders through “the white and drifted snow” to Thanksgiving dinner, also has versions where the object of the journey was the pumpkin pie and pudding of Christmas Day.

Every year, wonderful holiday memories are made from such journeys (though perhaps not so often by sleigh anymore). In fact, from one perspective, the Christmas story may be seen as a series of journeys—movements from one location to another. From another perspective, the Christmas story speaks of, and invites us to, spiritual journeys—movement, growth, expansion from Point A to Point B in our spiritual life. Through the Christmas story, the Holy Spirit leads us to ever-greater journeys of faith, witness, and worship.

The apostle John tells about the most profound journey of Christmas in his Gospel. John’s special name for the Son of God in the first chapter of his Gospel is “the Word” (John 1:1). According to John, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14). That’s a long journey—from heaven to earth, from Godhood to manhood!

While Jesus was on earth, He made a lot of journeys to rescue people from disease, death, and especially eternal judgment. Where did Jesus travel to save people?

Mark 1:39

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John 19:17–18

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Luke 24:50–51

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Jesus made His Christmas and all His life journeys so that He could settle among us, live within us, and finally dwell with us forever in heaven. Truly, He journeyed to be Immanuel, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Every time we celebrate Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the announcement of the Gospel we celebrate Christmas—the festival that tells us Jesus came and keeps coming to us as our Savior!

Jesus’ parents, Mary and Joseph, also made a long, trying journey (Luke 2:4–5). When Mary and Joseph reached their destination, what accommodations awaited them?

Luke 2:6–7

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Before these holy parents could settle down with their newborn child, what other journeys did they have to make to keep Jesus safe?

Matt. 2:13–15, 19–23

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These were the first of a lifetime of journeys that left Jesus’ family experiencing everything from bewilderment (Luke 2:41–50) to anxiety and concern (Mark 3:20–21) to shocking grief (Luke 2:35; John 19:25). The journey that began as the Christmas journey led Mary, as it leads all of Jesus’ followers, on a journey of faith. It can be long and trying. But Christmas reminds faith’s travelers: It’s worth it! At the end awaits an angel with good news: “A Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:11).

At the bidding of angels, shepherds too made a Christmas journey. From what location to what location in Bethlehem did it take them?

Luke 2:8, 11, 16

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The shepherds’ trip probably was not a great distance—at least not in comparison with that of the Savior’s and His parents. But it did take them far from where they were. From where to where did they traverse emotionally, socially (the company they were keeping), and vocationally?

Luke 2:8–17

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Each Christmas God beckons us to make a journey—from wherever we are to a stable in Bethlehem. He bids us see and celebrate to what lengths He went, just how far He came to draw us close to Him in the Word made flesh. If we are close, He invites us to come closer in the closeness of Jesus’ very body and blood. If we are far, He calls us to come near to the promise of His eternal nearness He pledged in Baptism. And when we are near, as near as the Christmas journey brings us, He surprises us out of fear into joy so that we cannot but launch into a new journey to “spread the word concerning what [has been told us] about this child” (Luke 2:17). Where are you going for Christmas?

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