The Journey Of The Soul To Bethelehem

The two articles here are both very different in style but on reading them, they express very deep feelings , so deep that I feel as if I had written them, when in fact, I have only responded to them both.

I don't know either of the authors and finding the articles was serendipitous.

The first one is a wake up, get real, stop deluding ourselves kind of message and the second is a gentle more compassionate one that welcomes all comers . 

This is the messiness of our Christian faith in that both contain profound truths about what Advent means .

This article  is by Brennan Manning, who perhaps might be considered a John the Baptist for our time.

"The world does not understand vulnerability. 

Neediness is rejected as incompetence and compassion is dismissed as unprofitable. The great deception of television advertising is that being poor, vulnerable and weak is unattractive.
The spirituality of Bethlehem is simply incomprehensible to the advertising industry. The opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony are being used to sell us a pain reliever, and the prayer of St. Francis is being used to sell us hair conditioner.

The Bethlehem mystery will ever be a scandal to aspiring disciples who seek a triumphant Saviour and prosperity Gospel. The infant Jesus was born in unimpressive circumstances, no one can exactly say where. 
His parents were of no social significance whatsoever, and his chosen welcoming committee were all turkeys, losers and dirt-poor shepherds.
But in this weakness and poverty the shipwrecked at the stable would come to know the love of God.

Sadly, Christian piety down through the centuries has prettified the Babe of Bethlehem. 
Christian art has trivialized the divine scandal into gingerbread creches. Christian worship has sentimentalized the smells of the stable into dignified pageant…

Pious imagination and nostalgic music rob Christmas of its shock value, while some scholars reduce the crib to a tame theological symbol.”

The second article is by someone called Mata H from here.

"Advent is the beginning of the spiritual Christian pilgrimage to Bethlehem. It is a journey of the soul that changes for each of us every year. It is a time for summing up, a time for learning from what went before, and a journey to a new beginning. A journey that ends with us standing at the manger, bringing what we are and who we are to the feet of the infant who is, for us, the Fulfillment of the Promise. 

It is there that we hope to find what we seek -- comfort and consolation, or quiet and hope, or peace and joy. We will pause at the manger, pilgrims all, made wiser and simpler souls by the events of the journey, by the secret heart of Advent.

The first journeys to the manger began in the Orient, when three Magi -- basically three very wise people -- looked at the heavens and saw a promise in a star. They consulted their charts and set off with gifts. Just like that. Three wise scholars just dropped everything and started looking. 

Locally, a group of shepherds started their long walk. Why? because the skies opened up, and angels started singing. The angels said they should not be afraid, but should hurry to Bethlehem because Christ was born. Shepherds are very devoted to their flocks. But off they went, simple men who decided to not be afraid when the angels came. 

They just packed up and started walking. Just like that.

We take these stories for granted. 

"We Three Kings.." "Hark the Herald Angels.." etc.
We read, sing and forget to listen to the remarkable fact that the news got people moving, walking, and shaking up their lives with nothing but hope and a promise.
Lots of people. Smart ones and simple ones. Rich ones and poor ones. 

And at Advent, that's what we can do. 

We can hit the spiritual road. We can stay mindful and intentional about the journey. We can take whatever we feel, whoever we have become straight to the manger. Just like that. 

There are years we will stumble to Bethlehem, barely able to keep our balance as we trip over all the sadness and obstacles in our path. The grief we feel may make it more a free-fall than a walk, but we hurl our selves toward Bethlehem nonetheless. 

We may have no more strength when we get there but to bury our face in the sweet smelling hay around the baby, soaking in the hopefulness of others.

Or, we may walk with sadness or fear. That's when others come to us, holding a hand, buoying us up, feeding us, housing us until our souls can stretch out on their own. 

It's good to ask for help on this journey, to reach out to the other pilgrims. That is what we are all here for, to help each other through.

Perhaps we have only part of what it takes to make the journey to the place of hope. We have water to drink, but no bread to eat. On this journey, we will find a woman with bread and no water to drink. 

Together, sharing, we travel; pilgrims joined by need.

Or, we have abundance, and travel in joy. That is when the journey gives us the chance to share, to be part of the great humming mass of pilgrims, to be part of the widow's journey, or the King's, the shepherd's journey or the professor's. 

This is where we learn, on the Advent road, that after all is said and done, all journeys are one.

It is also where we learn that all pilgrims are teachers. Whenever there is a pilgrimage, there is learning. 

The contents of our souls seem to bubble to the surface when we set our feet intentionally toward Bethlehem. 

What we need and what we have to offer start to become more clear, refracted by the light of this amazing star overhead.

Listen closely this Advent. It is a time when teachers will come into our lives. They may be dressed like shepherds, simple folk, uneducated, poor pilgrims, or they may be decked out in the finery of the Magi. 

But they are on this trip for the same reason we are -- to find the Fulfillment of the Promise, the sacred child, the place where we are all known fully.

Take time this Advent to mark your journey. 
Spend a few moments thinking about your year, and what your soul may bring to Bethlehem. 

Look around and see who might need your help getting to their personal Bethlehem. or, who might help you to get there. 

In the small manger we will find that we are known -- with all our imperfections, our sadness, our grief, regret, confusion, doubt, tumult, anger, love, joy, kindness, and our compassion. 
This messy and wonderful mix of who we all are is known and loved in a small manger in a special town called Bethlehem.

But we won't find that out for a few weeks. Right now, we have the walking and the watching and the listening. And we have each other -- joined by faith, joined by hope, joined by love.

And for your Advent, what will you do? 
What do you bring on this year's journey?"

No comments: