17 12 2013

Last year in 2012, I made a journey and ended up having a wonderful time visiting and speaking at the Dalat School in Penang, Malaysia. Our former Pastor Tom and his wife Debby Cura and their two sons actually ended up moving there because of the spiritual call and connection that God gave us with such a great institution made up of extraordinary people. I still stay in daily touch via Facebook with many of the students that I got to know during that life altering excursion. And while I utterly enjoyed my time being there- I must admit to you all that I absolutely hated the journey. It took 30 plus hours! I was all by my lonesome! They don’t make coach airplane seats for us tall people! I got the runs on the way home because I sampled “bubble tea” for the first time. I had to sit in the middle. In Hong Kong- because of a mix-up with my reservation, they wouldn’t believe I was who I was. I tried desperately to convince them that nobody else would want to be me! It was a trip that was much more than I bargained for.

The first Christmas also began with a journey that nobody asked for! In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone was legally required to return to the home town of their birth to register. So Joseph had to pack things up and go back to Bethlehem because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. Mary and Joseph found themselves forced to take a pilgrimage that they didn’t intend to ever make!

Joseph’s hometown was in Bethlehem and that meant at 9 months pregnant, Mary would have to go on a ten day escapade because if they didn’t go, who knows what kind of penalty the Romans had in mind? Mary didn’t know a mid-wife in Bethlehem. Her Mama was in Nazareth! And she had to be anxious about this adventure! Mary prayed “The Magnificat” when she was with Elizabeth, but what words would she utter now?

I know what I would have said! The following is a sample of what my sentences would have sounded like! “God, how could you? Here I am trying to do all the things you want me to do and you have to go and make it even harder? I have taken the shame and the blame and people make fun of me and whisper untruths about Joseph and me! I have pressed on but can’t you cut me some slack? Now! You are taking me far away from the comfort zone of my family! Why is this happening? What did I do to make you mad? Why did you not exempt me from this? How did you let this happen?”

Have you ever felt this way towards God? Have you ever found yourself so profoundly disappointed by life that all you could do was cry out to God in anger or in pain or both? Put your aching feet in Mary’s sandals! Imagine what she felt! What is a young teenager who is 9 months pregnant and who has hormones raging throughout her being going to do as she learns about yet one more divine assignment that would clearly be beyond her control!

Daily itineraries are not always ordered by God but are directed by him as part of his sovereignty and permissive will. In a world where humans are free to make choices, sometimes life just happens as the result of both the good and bad decisions of mankind. When life seems to be on the fritz, it is easy to be disappointed or wonder if we have been abandoned by God. I know that many times I have been simply confused as to why I was made to travel such a curious road! But if I trsut that God is still genuinely at work, then I know there will always be wonder around the bend! In the Christmas story, there is a deeper meaning to the events that Mary can’t understand yet. God is turning the decision of a greedy emperor and redirecting it to become a divine dance of destiny! And He still does that kind of miraculous magic in our own lives today!

Even the very route they took held marvelous meaning! There were 2 possible roads that Mary and Joseph could have taken to Bethlehem. The young couple might have taken the popular highway, the one that everybody else was going to be on- especially those who cared about appearing holier than thou and they who wanted to be seen and noticed by the traveling company! Or they could have ventured on an outlined map that had them pressing on and through the rough and tough neighborhoods! This option included their sandals touching the sidewalks of Samaria! Jews thought the Samaritans to be heretics and unclean and uncouth! So to keep themselves pure, the righteous “only in their own mind” crowd- chose deliberately to walk the long way! This included adding 30 miles to the trip and an extra 2 days!

But the road that Mary and Joseph did take went right through the heart of Samaria! Because didn’t Jesus come to save people of all races, color and creeds? God wants all of us to lay down our earthly prejudices because our bigotry will keep us from being in the Lord’s ultimate bestselling story! You must be willing to go anywhere, anyplace, anytime to anybody! And you have to wonder if somewhere down the road, Jesus caught his parent’s openness to all people because didn’t Jesus minister to the Samaritan Woman in John chapter 4 and tell the oxymoron parable of the “Good Samaritan?” Who are your Samaritans this Christmas? Who are you avoiding because you might think you are too good for them? Are your children picking up your sentiments because you are uncomfortable with these people?

One more tasty tidbit that I want to offer you as I inform you about the trail that Joe and Mary ended up trotting upon. In following the mile markers via the road through Samaria, the Holy Family would have been retracing the “Way of the Patriarchs!” They would have been reliving 1600 years of biblical history! They couldn’t help but see God and remember his mighty deeds by going the way they did! They would have passed the spot where God first called Abraham. They would have walked right by the place where Jacob wrestled the angel. They would have seen the burial place of the Joseph of the coat of many colors fame and literally put their feet in the same place that Elijah and Elisha and Joshua and Moses had been before!

The name Jesus means “God saves his people.” All Joseph and Mary would have gotten on the other road was traffic and chaos and people whining and complaining and probably very little rhymes or reasons to strengthen their faith! But when you go God’s way, God’s word comes alive and you are affirmed with every step you take that God is able to keep every promise that he makes! What road is your Christmas going through this year? Are you in the midst the way of the crowd which only leads to chaos? Or will you humbly take the journey that Jesus is leading you to which results in brand new beginnings and definitive ways to trust and believe that Emanuel is with you all the way? All of us will get caught at times in some difficult deals as we seek staying true to God’s directions! But the day we finally arrive to our divinely designed destination- we wouldn’t miss the map to the miracle by choosing any other manuscript other than the masterpiece ordained by our Maker! Travel wisely this December- but go God’s way all the way because it’s the only way!



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