Advent is a liturgical season of the Christian church designated as a time to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. This sacred season begins four Sundays before Christmas and is often observed with the aid of an Advent wreath. The wreath is composed of four candles – each candle representing an aspect of our spiritual preparation for a significant and meaningful celebration of Jesus’ birth. These aspects are hope, love, joy and peace. The primary color of the Advent candles is purple symbolizing repentance. For myself, I like to think of Advent as being a time for me to take a journey to Bethlehem. Over 2000 years ago, Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem to fulfill the census requirements of Caesar Augustus. While they were there, Mary gave birth to her son Jesus. Bethlehem also became the destination for Wise Men, shepherds and other people from the lineage of David who needed to register for the same census as Joseph. These people traveled a physical journey to a physical town. My journey to Bethlehem is a spiritual journey to a spiritual location. My Bethlehem is in my heart where Jesus is born and continues to live. Advent is the perfect opportunity for me to focus upon the place Jesus has in my life. Advent for 2015 began this past Sunday, so I set out on my journey this week. As I undertake my journey to Bethlehem this year, I want to focus upon the roads of hope, love, joy and peace. I also want to gain insights from various biblical characters who have traveled these roads in the past.
Today I am traveling upon the Road of Hope. This route can sometimes be hard to see based upon Romans 8:24-25 that says, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” However Romans 5:5 assures me that “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
I believe I could meet the Wise Men or Magi traveling the Road of Hope. These men covered the longest distance and it took them the longest time of any travelers I will encounter to reach Bethlehem. They may have been coming from Persia or India or China, so could easily have covered over 800 miles to reach their destination. Two years had lapsed from the time Jesus was born until the these men found Jesus in Bethlehem. These Wise Men personified hope because they did not even know their destination when they started their journey. According to Matthew 2:2, they simply followed a star that appeared in the east. Some say these men may have begun their journey before Jesus was born while others say the star first appeared to them the moment of his birth.
Looking back into history, I try to imagine what the Wise Men did as they traveled down the Road of Hope. Matthew 7:7 may give me some insight, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” The Wise Men asked people in Jerusalem and talked with King Herod about where they could find this baby born to be king of the Jews. They continued to seek Him by following the star God provided for them. They probably knocked on the door of the home where Mary, Joseph and Jesus were living when they found him as a two-year-old boy. Throughout their journey, they were on the Road of Hope believing Jeremiah 29:11, “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”
Today Christmas cards that portray the Wise Men often include the phrase, “Wise men still seek Him.” That includes me! I can apply these same scriptures to my journey to the Bethlehem within my heart while traveling the Road of Hope. I mentioned hope being part of the Lord’s plan according to Jeremiah 29:11. When I go on to Jeremiah 29:13, it says, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” I like this promise! If I fulfill Matthew 7:7 of asking, seeking and knocking, I can claim the promise of Matthew 7:8, “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Colossians 1:27 says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ in me means Christ in my heart. I can experience this by traveling the Road of Hope. This is why I need to retrace the route to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, to prepare myself to celebrate the His birthday!
My Reader, will you join me on this journey? While we travel down the Road of Hope together we can rely upon the promise of Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
* Bold type words are my choice of emphasis.