Last week I began my spiritual journey to Bethlehem to prepare my heart for Christmas. I traveled the Road of Hope and encountered the Wise Men or Magi. This week I walk along the Trail of Love with Mary and Joseph. The distance of my journey is approximately 12 inches from my head to my heart as I attempt to gain new understanding of the true story of Christmas. Mary and Joseph traveled about 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem in order for the first Christmas to occur.
Luke 2:1-7 records the background for the following events. Because of a census required by Caesar Augustus, Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem to register in his own town. Mary and Joseph began their journey on the Trail of Love from Nazareth to Bethlehem as two people betrothed to each other. They shared different levels of love while journeying upon the Trail of Love. (There are three Greek words translated as love in the English language. Phileo describes the warm affection shared between friends, which would have been the beginning of the love experienced between Mary and Joseph. Eros is the physical, sensual love between a husband and wife. This couple would one day share this love but presently their marriage had not yet been consummated. Agape is the highest form of love described as the love of God for man and of man for God. Agape love was manifested to Mary and Joseph when Jesus was born.) Yes, Mary and Joseph were in love as they began their journey on the Trail of Love but love was then born unto them. While in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to her first-born son, Jesus. He was the Son of God and Son of Man. I John 4:8 tells me, “God is love” and God is the heavenly father of Jesus, so Jesus is love.
Mary and Joseph traveled the physical Trail of Love and today I am traveling the spiritual Trail of Love. I could describe my Trail of Love as a brick path with each of the characteristics of love described in I Corinthians 13:4-8 being a unique brick, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” These are powerful bricks to walk upon! As I travel upon this route taking me closer to the Bethlehem of my heart, I develop a deeper love for God and experience more deeply God’s love for me.
John 3:16 states “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In the little town of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, God the Father, gave His Son, Jesus, to the world as the first Christmas gift. This first Christmas gift was motivated by love; and I desire this to be the motive behind each Christmas gift that I purchase and give away. I John 4:19 says, “We love because he (God) first loved us.” I want my Christmas gifts to express both phileo and agape love to the recipients of my gifts.
In 1885, Christina Rosetta wrote a Christmas poem that has since been set to the music of a traditional Irish melody. Today it is known as Love Came Down at Christmas. These words help me travel the Trail of Love to the spiritual Bethlehem in my heart. My Reader, please join me on my journey this week by meditating upon the following words. Let us together retrace the route to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, to prepare ourselves to celebrate the birthday of Jesus!
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love Incarnate, Love Divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
* Bold type words are my choice of emphasis.