Searching For The Stable
By Lynne Elwinger, O.C.D.
Christmas approaches, and once again we are invited to journey to the stable. The paths by which we arrive there are as individual as we are. They can be as challenging today as they were for the original travelers going to Bethlehem. Whatever the nature of our particular mode of travel, there are certain commonalities in all Christmas journeys. We have to leave behind the familiar and the comfortable. To come to the stable, the place where God and humanity meet in our physical world, requires taking some risks and having faith in the One calling us. We have to make time for traveling, and we need to go with open eyes and hearts.
The Inner Pilgrimage
This trip does not, of course, have to be a physical journey. In fact, more often than not, it is an inner one. Or it may be both. The invitation can come within one's ordinary environment when circumstances are changed significantly through joyful or painful events. Marriage, the birth of a child, the sudden death of a loved one, one's own illness or injury or loss of a job or of a relationship, for example, can send us traveling. A move to a new home, a new city or a new job, often produces a journey effect. A conscious practice of reflection and prayer is also likely to result in an inner pilgrimage. The process can happen suddenly or gradually, and the trip required may be long or short.
Some type of transformation will be experienced by those who are open to it. At the stable, where we experience God's love in the midst of our own world and within ourselves and others, the landscapes of our lives can be seen with new eyes. Those around us will be approached with renewed hearts. Hope and joy are reborn in us. We know God's presence companioning us on the way, both going and returning.
The Experiences Awaiting Them
In the original Christmas story, those who went to Bethlehem, whether obeying a Roman command to be counted, following a star in the heavens, or following the advice of singing angels, had to go on faith, believing that God was in the calling forth. None of them knew what experiences were awaiting them, nor did they even know their exact destination. Nevertheless, all of them took the risks required to make the journey that led them to arrive at the stable.
Each of our own journeys in some way echoes that of one of the travelers on that first Christmas. We may go as Mary did, carrying the Holy One within us wanting to be born, or as did Joseph with his concerns for the care and safety of his family. The trip may be relatively short and totally spontaneous, as was that of the shepherds surprised in their fields. Some will journey with the Magi on a longer, more planned, and more solitary trip through the “desert”, seeking Emmanuel, God-with-us. Or, perhaps, we will end up going with the other wiseman, 1 whose arrival in Bethlehem was constantly delayed by choices he made to stop and help friend and stranger on the road. At the end, he discovered that the miracle of the stable had been with him in each choice to do the loving deed asked for at the moment, each day along the way. We too can find the stable meeting us on the path we are already walking. There are many ways to come to the stable.
Knowing that God is on the journey with us and all that we need along the way is already being provided, let us venture forth this Christmas in search of the sacred, for ourselves and for our suffering world. At the stable, we all meet and become one.
1 Van Dyke, Henry, The Story of the Other Wiseman . (Ballantine Books, 1989).
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