In the first week of Advent, we talked about some of the persons who lived with anticipation, in the hopes of centering our own anticipation on the coming Christ. In the second week of Advent, we looked at some of the places that were making preparations (or not) for the birth, hoping that we might prepare our own hearts for His coming. In this third week of Advent, we journey into the manger, to the witnesses, to those who came to see that holy night.
In the hopes, of course, that we might be a people who come.
Let's face it - Bethlehem wasn't exactly Jerusalem. It's not like there was a lot going on there or even probably a lot to do. You would not, if you were accustomed to big city life, probably go there on your own. And certainly, you wouldn't have gone there at this time if you didn't have to.
Because you were probably already on your way somewhere else, somewhere called home. That's why the manger was so easy to miss. It's not just those who had come to Bethlehem who were traveling for the census; everyone was on his or her way to somewhere to be counted. That means that a lot of persons were far from home, traveling in and through places they might not normally (or at least, often) be. And that's true everywhere.
Those who might normally have been in Jerusalem weren't in Jerusalem. Those who lived in Nazareth might not have been in Nazareth. Bethlehem, we know, was full of travelers - the no-vacancy sign at the inn tells us that much - but it's also true that parts of Bethlehem might have been vacant if those families had to go elsewhere to be counted among their clans.
In other words, nobody's where they usually are, some are already where they're supposed to be, and many others are still yet traveling through. And while that seems like probably quite a bit of a mess and it's easy to wonder how we're supposed to sort out who was when and where, and why and how, it's actually rather good news.
Because it means that almost anyone from almost anywhere could have been near that manger that night. Almost anyone from almost anywhere may have heard that newborn baby cry. Almost anyone from almost anywhere could have seen that baby Jesus.
If only they had gone.
The same is true for us this Christmas. A lot of us are traveling. We're between places. Some of us are where we're "supposed" to be, the places where we spend most of our lives, but some of us aren't. Some of us are coming to those places. Others are going from them. Some of us are on the road somewhere. And it feels like a transient place, like a place in motion, like a place where it is impossible tell who is where and when, and why and how. But that's actually good news.
Because it means that any and every one of us can be near that manger this Christmas. Any and every one of us can hear that newborn baby cry. Any and every one of us can see that baby Jesus. All we have to do in the midst of all our going...is come. Because we're certainly close enough.
This Advent, let us be a people who come. A people who pay attention to the signs of the season, to the sacred signals all around us. Let us be a people who look up to the sky and see the star, who open our ears and hear the cry. Let us be a people who, on the move already anyway, take that extra time to go a little farther and visit the manger.
O, come. Let us adore Him.