Back to Bethlehem

[Ray McMillan uses “home” to speak of both Regina, SK, and NE India.  He and his wife Ellen are among the kindest and most serving people I know.]

When travelling, I much prefer non-stop flights. Last April, on a flight from Yangon (Burma) to Kolkata I was disappointed when informed that we were making a stopover at Bodh Gaya, center of the Buddhist world, 479 km. northwest of Kolkata. A multitude of orange attired passengers disembarked, each on a pilgrimage to the place where the Buddha is said to have attained “unsurpassed, supreme enlightenment.”

When flying on Arab airlines such as Gulf, Qatar, or Emirates, the display map is constantly identifying one’s location in relation to Mecca (Saudi Arabia), the birthplace of both the Prophet Muhammad and center of the Islamic world Muslims pray five times daily facing Mecca and every year millions of Muslims make their pilgrimage to their sacred city.

Historically, it appears that multitudes of Christians have followed suit with pilgrimages to Jerusalem (the death place) and Bethlehem (the birth place of Jesus). Thousands more have done theological pilgrimages “back to Jerusalem” in search of church polity and practice.

Today, I suggest a transformational pilgrimage all the way back to Bethlehem manger where we may appropriate “the attitude” of “The Message-become-human” who made himself nothing, humbled himself and became obedient even to death on a cross (Philippians 2).

All the physical and/or theological pilgrimages, and even Christmas celebrations, amount to very little unless the end result is enriched relationships characterized by compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. The “babe in the Bethlehem manger” can impart it all! Let’s be on our way back!

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