Friday, December 14, 2018

The Door Called Bethlehem

Waiting. Holy discontent. Longing. These are gifts from God. They draw us away from ourselves, towards the open hands of a good and patient God. Like Narnia’s Aslan, our God is not “tame,” to be controlled at our will. But he is good. A goodness that seeps deeper into human hearts and minds than we will ever know.

Writer and theologian Frederick Buechner writes,

“For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning—not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.”
The Magnificent Defeat)

Everything about the Christmas story has been leading up to Bethlehem:
Prophets foretold.
Zechariah silenced.
Joseph proposed.
Mary agreed.
Angels announced.
Mary traveled.
Baby leaped.
Elizabeth exclaimed.
Mary sang.
John arrived.
Zechariah prophesized.
Caesar decreed.
Donkey trotted.
Star shone.
Wise men saw.
King angered.
Mary delivered.
Jesus swaddled.
Angels sang.
Shepherds heard.
Wise Men gave.
Shepherds told.

And that’s pretty much what happened in and around Bethlehem when Christ was born. How many centuries had Israel been waiting for such a thing to come true? What did the nativity scene look like the next morning? And the morning after that?

What happens when what we’ve been waiting for finally arrives?

I’m grateful for Buechner’s thoughts because I find myself wondering these very things. Everything changed. But was anything really different?

As we receive God’s promises, both large and small, Bethlehem is the door through which we walk. It appears like the end goal, but it is just the beginning. The beginning of a new chapter with our God at the helm.

For the people of Israel, it was an open door to what would become the New Covenant. And those who faithfully walked through it had a front-row seat to the greatest story ever told. Like all of us sinners, many in Jesus’ inner circle  had times of doubt; times of fear. Many wondered if they had chosen the right door.

Without letting this metaphor run too long, the story of Christ’s birth cannot and should never be the end of Christ’s impact on our lives. With all its depth and joy, it will never be enough to satisfy eternal yearning God has placed in our hearts. It can only whet our desire for more. It re-ignites in us a longing for the completion of God’s story. 

So this Christmas, let the manger scene in Bethlehem be our door, leading to a path filled with holy longing for our eternal home. For, as C.S. Lewis once said,

"If I find in myself desires which nothing in this word can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world."
(from Mere Christianity).

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