In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God.
As we turn our eyes and our hearts toward Christmas, let us not forget what was happening here. Christmas was, and is, a homecoming.
It was a homecoming for Joseph and Mary, who were journeying toward Bethlehem to be counted in the census. They were going to Bethlehem because that was where Joseph's family came from, that was his home. In order for the census to be counted properly, that's where they had to be.
That in itself is interesting enough. It would have been customary in those times for a man to take his wife to his family's home to establish his own family home. He would have built an addition onto his father's house to become his married home, and the two young newlyweds would have had their own space among family. But that's not what happened in Joseph's case.
We can speculate about why that was. Perhaps it was because of the shame associated with Mary's out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Perhaps it was some dynamic in Joseph's family of origin that we aren't told about. Perhaps Joseph's work as a carpenter had taken him to a new place to set up his own homestead. We just don't know. But what we know is that for some reason, Joseph had taken a different path and was not living in his family's home; he had to travel there.
He had to travel to the place that he knew as love. He had to travel to the place that he knew as familiar. He had to travel to the place where he was known, truly known, by those around him. He had to make the journey to go back to where he came from, to the place where he remembered every little twist and turn of every road and where the nearest Walmart was. Joseph had to saddle up a donkey, pack a bag, and return to a place he once left to be counted among those whose blood ran through his own veins.
And we could say, then, that this was a homecoming for his son, too. For the little baby Jesus, who was from the very beginning invested in this earth, who was at the very creation of this place when the very first word was spoken - who was that very Word itself, John tells us.
When Jesus comes forth from Mary's womb and starts crying in that manger, something in Jesus has come home. Something in Him has come to settle into the creation that, from the very beginning, was His glory. Something...was very good again.
It's strange to think of it this way. We always think that God created the heavens for Himself and the earth for us, but the earth is just as much a part of His glory as the heavens. Because we are just as much a part of His glory as the earth. We are not somehow other from God, somehow separate from Him; we are created in His very image. And that means that everything that God has created for us, He has created for Him. In His image, we hold the earth, and He holds the earth. There's something about this strange place that is home for Him.
And all He's doing in that stable that night...is coming home.
He's coming back to the place where He walks among us, just as He did in the Garden of Eden. He's coming back to the place where we can hear His footsteps on our earth. He's coming back to the place where He can reach out a hand and touch us. This is how it was meant to be. This is how it was. This is the original plan, coming back to us in a baby.
Joseph and Mary journeyed home to bring Jesus home to us, back to the place that is Love. Back to the place that is familiar. Back to the place where He can be known, truly known, by us. Back to where we came from, to where He came from, to the place where we know every little twist in the road together...and yes, where the nearest Walmart is. Jesus grew in the womb of a virgin to return to a place He once left to be counted among those whose veins run with His blood.
Christmas is a homecoming - for Joseph, for Jesus, for us. And what a beautiful story.