As I read Kimberlee Conway Ireton's post, The Road to Bethlehem, I felt like I was sitting in the circle with her and her friends Julie and Julia and Carol, tracing the path to the manger from the prophets to the shepherds to the wise men.
They sat in the circle in silence for a while, contemplating this rich scene in Bethlehem where so many people and ideas and angels converged.
Another moment of silence, so quiet, so rich, and then Carol speaks, wonder lacing her voice. “Seeing the figures gathered there, around the baby – it reminds me of the story of the banquet, when people come from east and west and north and south, to gather at the table of the Lord.”
I think of the stained-glass window I saw in Chartes when I was pregnant with Jack, how the baby Jesus lay not in a manger but on a table, an altar. And I think of that word manger. In French, it means “to eat.” This baby is our food, as He will one day declare to His disciples. “My body,” He will say, “my blood. Take and eat. It is for you.”
It is all here, in this story, the whole Gospel.
"Who will show us the way to Bethlehem," her friend Debbie asked, as she led the discussion among this group of friends. The prophets, the shepherds, the wise men? Yes. The Holy Family themselves? Yes. But who else?, they asked. Kimberlee writes:
I wonder, too: who will show us the way to the Christ Child? Who will light our journey? The prophets, yes. Mary and Joseph, yes. The shepherds, yes. The Magi, yes.
But also – Debbie.
And Julie. And Carol. And maybe me, too. And maybe you.
Maybe we can hold hands on this dark road and help each other to see: “Look, there is the light!”
And as I was contemplating who would show me the way to Bethlehem with Kimberlee, I thought of sweet baby Sylvia, Julie Little's five-month-old girl who played baby Jesus to Julie's Mary in her church's living Nativity. Julie writes about her doubts about the casting:
Wrapped in swaddling cloths, my squirming, kicking five-month old makes a ridiculous Baby Jesus. Adorable, yes, but she is all girl with those rosy cheeks and delicate eyelashes. And newborn she is definitely not, as evidenced by her ever-moving, chubby appendages and bright, curious eyes. And who am I to think I could pretend to be the Mother Mary?
Julie is surprised when the onlookers arrive, though, how easy it is for them to look at Sylvia and see the tiny Savior boy. And to look at her, Julie Little, and see Mary the Mother of God.
The people coming through our little stable do not see my bouncing baby Sylvia. Looking upon my sleeping child, they see Jesus. Because they are looking for Him. They have come this night to escape the bustle and glitter and clamor and noise, to be reminded of What It's All About. And there in the manger sleeps a perfect little baby, and they don't see my baby but another Baby who was also God.
The wonder and ridiculousness of it makes me laugh even as I am crying. That God would use a harried, exhausted couple and their too-big baby and a fake manger scene in a modern church garden...It's almost as ridiculous as God using a real teenage girl and her fiance and a real manger scene on a real night in Bethlehem.
And it makes me wonder, this Advent, if Jesus himself might lead me to Bethlehem, if only I am looking for Him, really looking to see my true, incarnated Savior, during this busy holiday season.
There were so many beautiful posts submitted for The High Calling Advent Writing project, each one a sign-post along the Advent road, showing me the way to Bethlehem. I am linking to three or four of these each day between now and Christmas, hoping they will show you the way as well.
But you can also see all the links reprised below. Thank you to all who participated by writing, and thank you to all who participated by reading.
We wait because we believe. We believe while we wait.
You also won't want to miss Laura Boggess's wrap up of the Advent Writing Project over on the High Calling. She has a beautiful way of weaving many of these posts together with her own story of Advent.