Finding Our Way to Bethlehem


You finally made it didn’t you? Here it is almost Christmas, 2017, and you’ve survived all the sales and parades, all the hoopla and glitter. Now the sky is streaked with the beauty of Christmas.

Your tree is lovely, your gifts were wrapped as carefully as they were chosen. Once again the marvelous birth of the Christ Child and the gentle hush of the season is here within our reach. The final chapter of this old year will soon be written and the rapidly changing Book of Time will place us as it pleases. But first, it is almost Christmas.

The smell of lemon oil mixes generously with the crisp tinge of evergreens. You have done your best to give the season the entrance it deserves. I hope this day is for you everything you want it to be. Cinnamon and evergreens, children and laughter, special family, dear friends, and those blessed old fragile memories that nudge us so strongly on Christmas, sad or happy, they too are part of Christmas.

We need Christmas with all its gaudiness and madness. We need all the church pageants and the lusty singing of all the old carols. We need “Amazing Grace” for without the carols and the grace, we might never find that seemingly elusive road to Christmas. Along that steep road to the sleepy town of Bethlehem we discover many things, sometimes we may even rediscover ourselves as we continue our search for the Christ Child.

Christmas is especially a moment to browse through old pictures tucked away in musky albums; smiles of Christmases past, carefully woven scenes of times that we will never hold again except in our hearts. Rich, poignant memories preserved in old photographs, fragile, sweet.

Without a picture to jiggle recall, who can remember, exactly, that special, mournful, whiskered at the muzzle look, that “what am I doing here with this silly bow around my neck” look, on the face of the puppy you got at seven. Or the shiny balloon-tire bike in sizzling blue you got when you were 10. Then there was the old Shirley Temple doll with perfect sausage curls that every mama tried to duplicate, clamped in place with a hair-bow about the size of Vermont.

Or maybe it was just a stocking filled with nuts and fruit and candy, maybe a Red Ryder wagon to bring the wood in. Yet, always there was Grandma or Papa saying, “Be nice, remember, you are somebody’s gift to somebody.”

Then there are all the other familiar faces, smiling a little self-consciously, caught forever in time by the magic of the camera’s eye. The soft folds of Mama from youth to our last Christmas together. Daddy, tall and erect in his uniform. Aunt Daisy, smiling her toothy grin, loaded down with presents and outrageous stories. She offered bear hugs, impractical gifts and left a trail of Channel #5 in her wake. She’d sweep out of our lives as mysteriously as she arrived. But she always came back. No matter how far life took her, our Daisy knew her way home.

I suppose innocence is what separates a snapshot from a perfect portrait. Nobody is carefully composing or trying for a special effect. Caught up in the moment we all become merely button pushers, letting by that snap, a slice of light slip through a lens to lay down its shades and shadows on our lives. Never realizing, we are making history, creating memories, buying time.

The warmth of old snapshots shake–remind, open the gates of feelings. Like staring into firelight. Flames are flirting into blue, and wood is changing mysteriously into light and smoke. We grow heavy-lidded, lost in thoughts that tumble ever gently into our hearts. Pictures tell us who we are and where we’ve been.

Sometimes when we walk through all these distant doorways of the past we somehow find the courage to rebuild those fragile bridges. We pause and look closely again at our yesterdays, and allow ourselves the luxury of remembering, if only for a moment, the way it was; and gently we tread lightly on the way it is.

So may the joy of this Christmas day leave a warm and special place within your hearts. May each of you find whatever it is you may be seeking on your own road to Bethlehem. For Christmas is indeed the season of memories, and all the footsteps of our lives have left their prints in the holiday present.

“ Reflect upon your present blessings-of which every man has many -not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.

“ Fill your glass again, with a merry face and contented heart. Your Christmas shall be merry, and your New Year a happy one!” Charles Dickens left us with this message many years ago. “And it was said of all who knew him; Ebeneezer Scrooge knew how to celebrate Christmas, as merrily as any man.”

So savor these rich shadows of life. Enjoy this day, this Christmas.