Last time, I noted my quest to rediscover the meaning of Christmas. I actually believe that is a lifelong journey. But here is something I realized this week.
Throughout the bible we see that God is a traveling God. The quintessential example of this is his appearance as the Divine Traveling Companion manifested as the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night with the Israelites. God was with Abraham on his trek, with David when he fled Saul and with the Israelites to and from Babylon.
God gets around.
With the Exodus story, our traveling God shows up in a big way. Then, when we get to the New Testament, he shows up in a very small way. As a baby.
The omnipotent Creator of the universe comes to us as a helpless infant. The package is always what’s blown me away about the Incarnation, but as I try to regain a fresh perspective this week on Christmas, I’m struck by the delivery system. Not the detailed part of being born in a stable and all that, but the fact that he came to us.
In every other religion, we have to go to the god or gods, supplicating them, seeking their favor, doing things on our part that will earn us our entry ticket into a better life the next round. But with the Incarnation, God came to us. He traveled to us.
Travel is inherently incarnational. We take our full selves into another place. With the Incarnation, God took his fullness and somehow confined it into flesh and blood just like us. We often travel for our own sakes, but he traveled to this planet for ours. And therein lies the amazing thing to me about the Incarnation.
I’ve never thought about Jesus’ birth relating to the parable of the prodigal son until now, but there’s an interesting parallel. In the parable (Luke 15:11-32) the father sees the returning younger son from a distance and comes running to him. In the same way, with the Incarnation, God comes to us. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He travels with us. No matter where we go. But it all starts with the fact that he took the initiative to travel here first.
What we celebrate with Christmas is, in a small way, the fact that we are not alone in our travels. Even more marvelous is that through the Incarnation, we’re invited into a personal, intimate journey with the traveling God who, like Aslan in the Narnia books, is still “on the move.”
And it is always in a direction toward us.