I love the story of the little boy who brought his beloved teacher a shell from the coast of his island. When he presented the shell to her on Christmas, she immediately knew it was a day’s journey to the coast to find such a treasure.
She looked down at him, awed that he would go all that way for her.
He met her eyes, knowing exactly what she was thinking: “Long walk part of gift,” he says.
This story, in that one line, summarizes the meaning of Christmas to me. Joseph and Mary journeying to Bethlehem. The shepherds making haste to see the Christ child. The wise men following the star. Each of these journeys were significant, prophesied even, the angst and difficulty part of the poetry of that first Christmas. But, of course, the most significant journey of all was Christ’s.
Christ—in all his glorious God-ness—joined us in our humble human-ness. The great miracle of Christmas is that Someone loved us enough to make the journey, to dispel our messy darkness with extravagant love. Yes, it is miraculous that God wanted to save us. What is equally miraculous is that He chose to come down and walk among us.
The gift of Christmas, then, is not just a baby born. It is God coming near to you, to me. The gift of Christmas is God’s great love for us. He set aside His nature, His throne, His crown, His glory and said, I will become fully human. I will accept torture and death to save my children. Jesus held nothing back.
As we observe these days of Advent, waiting expectantly to celebrate the babe in the manger, may we all reflect on and see anew the wonder of this unparalleled gift. And, what’s more, the journey that brought the gift to us all.
Saved. Delivered. Restored. From exile to belonging. Heaven come to earth. Once we were not a people. Now we are sons and daughters. All because He made the journey. Emmanuel. God with us. Long walk part of gift. May we stop and—with awe—examine what we have been so graciously given.