(This Communion Meditation originally appeared online in December 2012.)
By Lee Magness
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David. . . . He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child (Luke 2:4, 5).
As the time approached for him to be taken up, . . . Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).
They journeyed to Judea—Joseph closing his shop, Mary pregnant, too pregnant for such a taxing trip. To Bethlehem, with its sheep and shepherds, soldiers and shopkeepers, all ready to fleece them. They borrowed a stall from a friendly farmer. Maybe Mary rode a donkey or maybe she felt each jarring step. Folk from the fields celebrated his arrival—shepherds shaken by the shouts of “Glory to God in the highest,” praising God for the child that had come at last, at long last, Mary agreed. Powerful people asked, “Who is this?”—magistrates and Magi, scholars and scribes, wondering who and where and when. It was the first Advent, the first coming—soon Jesus would be born.
They journeyed to Judea—the Son with his face set, the disciples dragging behind. To Bethany, a farming village full of friends and followers who would give him shelter. Jesus rode a donkey—on a journey as long as it was short, but all dust and tears. Folk from the fields celebrated his arrival—bringing branches, shouting, “Blessed be God,” laying down the leafy limbs, hoisting their “hosannas.” He had come at last, at long last, they agreed. Powerful people asked, “Who is this?”—rulers and revolutionaries, scholars and scribes, wondering who and what and why. It was the second Advent, the second coming. Soon Jesus would die.
Why would we keep Communion at Christmas? Why remember his death at the time of his birth? Why think about the journey at the end of his life while we celebrate the one at the beginning? Because the first journey reminds us of the pain that would return at the end. And the second journey reminds us of the purpose that was present from the very beginning.
God, help us to remember all Jesus’ triumphal entries, not the least of which is into our lives, through Jesus, Amen.
Lee Magness, former Vera Britton Chair of Bible/professor of Bible at Milligan College in Tennessee, retired in spring 2013 after 30 years in the classroom.
Image: “Jesus Traveling,” a watercolor painting (1886–1894) by James Tissot, in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.