Journey to Bethlehem: The Inner Journey
Our Advent experience this year led us on a Journey to Bethlehem. With that theme in hand we have walked, biked, rolled, climbed, exercised, and otherwise accrued collective miles to travel as a congregation to Bethlehem, the place of our Savior’s birth. Our goal for the journey was 7,229 miles, the distance from San Antonio to Bethlehem in Palestine.
Friends . . . we made it!!! As of this writing we have logged a collective 8,337.13 miles! Congratulations, Laurel Heights—you have gone the distance, and then some. If ours is a there-and-back journey, then we are just over one thousand miles west of Bethlehem on our return to San Antonio. We’ll continue to travel through Christmastide all the way to Epiphany.
When I shared with my wife, Liz, in a text message that we had reached Bethlehem and were heading back, she was as excited as I was, and then wrote, “How was it? Did you see any shepherds?”
Oh, yeah—the shepherds. And the magi, and the manger. Her tongue-in-cheek question made me realize I had gotten so excited about our latest statistic I hadn’t given much thought to our original purpose for traveling there!
Her question reminded me of the observation of Lillian Smith, a friend of Bill and Jerri Savuto, longtime United Methodist missionaries in Kenya: “. . . no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.”
Our “journey to Bethlehem” has certainly been an inner journey as well as a fun and fit measuring of our physical paces. When the Laurel Heights Health Cabinet originally conceived the idea of this thematic emphasis, a deepening of our spiritual lives was understood to be at the center of the focus. True to the group’s design, in the course of this season we have made that corresponding spiritual journey through our worship, our beautiful Advent devotional booklets, meditative phrases provided for use during exercise, and an extraordinary inter-generational prayer room, the gift of Reah Ministries, located in Room 312 of our education building. (A mesmerizing painting of Mary by Austin artist Gary Flemmons has just been added to one of the stations. If you haven’t seen this latest addition to the prayer room, I encourage you to do so this week or next as we continue the inner dimension of our Bethlehem journey.)
Bethlehem has been our goal; but even beyond Bethlehem we will seek the Christ, newborn, and newly born in us, day by day, season after season, as we grow more and more into the likeness of this One who bears the image of this God who comes among us, and whose name is Love.
Grace and peace.
Rev. Paul L. Escamilla, Senior Pastor