It takes about 18 hours to drive from Oakdale, Calif. to Bowron Lake Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada. I know that because as a 14 year-old I once rode for those 18 hours in a crowded, 12-passenger van. We were towing a large trailer filled with food and supplies for a youth group camping trip.
Any journey contains stages of exhaustion, enjoyment, excitement, nervousness, and many other feelings. This one was certainly filled with both eager anticipation for the adventure that awaited and apprehension about being outdoors for so long (not to mention the potential for bear attacks).
Most of the stories I remember from that experience are from the 36 total hours in the two vans, not the 10 days camping and canoeing with 20 other young men. We campers alternated between writing gimmicky songs about our camping trip (titles included “The Raven,” and “There’s a Bear Over There”) and trying to cram in one last text message or listen to a last song on our iPods.
The humorous and unexpected moments of a journey often stick with us the longest. I still remember when the van’s heater got stuck on in the back where several of us were packed in like sardines. After a few silent moments playing it cool and looking around to see if anyone else was starting to sweat, we hollered up to the driver, Dwayne, to help turn it off. Dwayne took the opportunity to launch into a serious lecture about teenagers learning gratitude and proceeded to let us sweat it out a little longer while we stripped down to our skivvies for survival.
As the cliche goes, it truly is about the journey, not the destination.
From Nazareth to Bethlehem
This second week of Advent, we reflect on another journey—the one Mary and Joseph took from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Their trek would have been made on foot and would have taken over 30 hours of travel time over several days.Their journey was likely dusty, exhausting and uncomfortable (especially for Mary). Walking for 30 hours is sure to give anyone time to think and feel. I would guess they shared feelings of excitement and wonder over this new baby that would fulfill God’s promises, and also feelings of nervousness like any new parents. They likely enjoyed the views of the Israeli countryside while dealing with the exhaustion of travel. All the while wrestling with impatience while awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promises.
While we can only guess the details about the experience of their journey, the shared human experience of travel can offer insight to this period leading up to Jesus’ arrival, and even reflects pieces of Jesus himself. Jesus was a journeyman: “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20 ESV). Throughout his life, Jesus shared in the human experience of the journey. The Gospels are collections of stories from his travels and when we reflect on the unromantic parts of a journey, we see how he shares our humanity and humility.
This week, join us in reflection of the journeys of Mary, Joseph and Jesus; let us see their humanity and let it draw us into humility and worship of our God who journeyed from heaven to earth. Our God experienced the journey and uses it himself to connect with us.