A Journey to Bethlehem – Peace

 

advent-wreath-1As Christmas Day is getting closer, so am I getting closer to the completion of my spiritual journey to the Bethlehem of my heart. In order to reach my destination of a joyous, meaningful celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, my travels now take me along the Path of Peace. On Christmas Day, I want to humbly bow at the manger where the Baby Jesus is laid. Currently, I am in the company of all the men and women traveling to Bethlehem for the sole purpose of registering for the census required by Caesar Augustus.

traveler-1Luke 2:1-3 states,In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.” Although registering for a census was not a common occurrence, no one was exempt from this decree. Anyone whose ancestry traced back to David had to travel to Bethlehem regardless of where they currently resided. Consequently, I encounter many people traveling the Path of Peace that leads to Bethlehem. I realize that not everyone has covered the same number of miles nor have they come from the same direction. For me, this symbolizes how anyone who comes to know Christ travels their own unique journey to find Him. However, the sad thing about these sojourners on their way to Bethlehem was that they did not know that they were on the same road as Mary and Joseph just before she would give birth to the Son of God. Many who lived in Bethlehem or were spending the night in that town had no idea of what sacred event was taking place in their midst. Luke 2:7 tells me that she (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” I wonder if the inn keeper who shut the door of his home to Mary and Joseph eventually went out to his stable to see the Christ child. How many people today shut the doors of their hearts to Jesus preventing His birth into their lives?

While covering the miles of the Path of Peace with other travelers, I am curious about how many of them truly knew what a privilege it is to walk the Path of Peace. I wonder how many of the people around me today know the difference between the world’s peace and God’s peace. I want to make a couple of physical and spiritual comparisons. First, these people who over 2000 years ago made this journey because the emperor required all Romans citizens to write their names in a census book. The Lord has a more important book where I want to be sure my name is written. Revelation 20:15 says, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Secondly, Caesar Augustus was the ruler of the Roman world during this time of relative peace. Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

I agree with the Psalmist who tells the Lord in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” As I travel along the Path of Peace during this Advent season, I notice some scriptural sign posts along my way. Jesus says in John 14:27,Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Philippians 4:7 tells me, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, Colossians 3:15 reminds me to, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

Mark 1:3 says “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” and Isaiah 40:3 says, “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” During the past four weeks, I have been on a spiritual journey to the Bethlehem in my heart, I have been traveling a highway comprised of the Road of Hope, Trail of Love, Route of Joy, and Path of Peace – all with the intent of making the path of my life straight so that I can sincerely celebrate the birth of Jesus in just a few days.

My Reader, I hope you have been traveling with me as we have retraced the route to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, to prepare ourselves to celebrate His birthday. It seems appropriate for us to conclude our spiritual journey to Bethlehem by focusing upon the Christmas carol by Philip Brooks known as O Little Town of Bethlehem.

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by:
Yet in thy dark streets shineth The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee to-night.

For Christ is born of Mary;
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth;
And praises sing to God the King,
And peace to men on earth.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us to-day.

We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel.

Merry Christmas to All My Readers!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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* Bold type words are my choice of emphasis.

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A Journey to Bethlehem – Hope

 

advent-wreath-1Advent 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.”

wise-menI 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.”

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new

* Bold type words are my choice of emphasis.