Chapter 3: Bethlehem {Jesus: A Pilgrimage}

Welcome to our virtual book club! We’re reading Fr. James Martin’s bestseller, Jesus: A Pilgrimage. Each week we will tackle a chapter and look forward to a lively discussion together.

Jesus book conversation

For me, this chapter about Fr. Martin’s visit to Bethlehem was a good reminder of the importance of how Jesus came: as a human. He had a hometown, but he also had a birthplace, not so different from many of us.

God could have come to the world in any way that God desired. We may be so conditioned to the story of the birth of Jesus in humble circumstances that we forget that this was a choice. God could have come to us as a powerful ruler, born into a family of wealth and privilege. To push the theological envelope further, God could have come as a disembodied voice speaking from the heavens.

But God wanted to meet us where we are. So God came, first of all, as a human being, as something—someone—other men and women could approach. God is not only a flaming bush, a pillar of fire, or even a mysterious cloud, as God is described in various places in the Old Testament. God is one of us.

Second, God came in the least threatening of human states: a baby. God entered our world screaming and crying, dependent on someone to change him, feed him, nurse him, and care for his bodily needs. God came helplessly into the world to help us.

Finally, Jesus came from a remarkable background. The Son of God was nothing special by outward appearance or by human standards. One might be awed by a great ruler or a learned scholar, but not by a simple craftsman. When Jesus began preaching, people in his hometown said, “Is this not the carpenter?” In other words, “Who, him?”

God comes to the world as a human being, at the risk of confusing Mary and Joseph, so that the rest of us will not be confused. Confused about God? Look at Jesus. See what he does. Listen to his words.

When’s the last time I did really stop and listen to Jesus’ words? How have I taken this story—so familiar, like a well-worn pair of jeans—for granted? What makes it new, gets my attention, makes me consider it as the remarkable thing it is?

God meets me where I am all. the. time. As I struggle with my vocation as mother, as I juggle different responsibilities, as I wonder why I bother…there’s God. Meeting me in the moment of frustration, in the triumph of success, in the sorrow of loss. Whether it’s the large hurdle of lifetime changes or the equally challenging barricade of my own hang-ups and sinfulness, there’s God. Right beside me. Often carrying me.

I didn’t always see him. (I still don’t.) He’s a gentleman and quite content to not get the credit for all he does for me. And yet, I can look back over the years and see evidence of him. In that Mass where I first realized the pain I was carrying and it started seeping out of me in a mess of tears and snot and sobbing. In that moment, holding my first child, when I had a sense of how very much I must be loved. In the confessional, realizing that what I was dealing with was bigger than my very strong will.

For humility is the gateway to faith. Without it, we rely simply on our own efforts, without recognizing our dependence on God. Without it, we rely simply on our own reason, without opening ourselves up to the possibility of the miraculous. Without it, we cannot fully enter into the world that God has in store for us.

He doesn’t meet us empty-handed. Like the gentleman he is, he comes with flowers: grace and blessings galore, though sometimes they’re a bit different than the bouquet we had picked out for ourselves.

I look at the life I have, and I smile. Just like the baby in the manger, the unlikely King with a manger for a bed, my life is far different than what I had planned. And, in being different, it’s far better.

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. When has God met you where you are? Take a few moments and journal about that experience and reflect on how it’s impacting you now.
  2. How have you grown in humility? What’s one thing you can do in the coming weeks to reach out and accept God’s help to grow in humility?
  3. What’s an obstacle blocking your growth in holiness? Take it to baby Jesus. Ask him to help you to be humble and accept help for that obstacle.

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 4: Nazareth. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Jesus Book Club page.

Copyright 2014 Sarah Reinhard

14 Comments
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