My Annual Pilgrimage
Monday evening after work I had a few minutes to shop at my favorite store in downtown Dallas – Neiman Marcus. Since we don’t have a NM in Indianapolis, it is even more special to spend a little time starting my shopping for Christmas on my December trip each year. As I walked through the glass doors, it occurred to me that it has been a whole year since I was there. But each December, I stay at the Adolphus Hotel, in all its holiday finery, and then walk the two blocks to NM to see what is new for the season.
Anyway, it occurred to me that I had really been looking forward to my annual trek and that the holidays don’t really start until I have had a chance to walk all the floors of the store. Truth is, it is the original location, but is no longer the flagship store of the chain. Rather small in square footage, but long on style and history, I really like this old store. Many people prefer the newer, larger places, but I keep coming back to my familiar haunt.
Each year, I try to find something for Janet. Unfortunately, no such luck this year – I didn’t find anything that I thought she would really like. But that didn’t stop me from looking in all the various departments I usually visit. Memories came flooding back to me of years past and as I left the store, I was even more in the holiday spirit than when I entered.
But the journey back to the store did more than get me in the mood for Christmas. Because in some small way it was a reminder of the rituals and events that have become a part of my life and through which I mark the passage of time. I can’t help but recall some of the things that occurred in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, that marked annual events of remembrance for the Israelites. Their traditions, such as Passover, or the celebration of Purim, in remembrance of the freedom of the Israelites as recounted in the book of Esther, are good examples of annual events that added some stability to the lives of God’s chosen people.
In our Christian calendar, we have Easter and Christmas, and many annual celebrations in this country not necessarily associated with any religious event. But we all use these markers of time to note the passage of the seasons and our undeniable march as we get older. I guess these were some of the things that I was thinking about as I walked the floors at Neiman. Nothing spectacular, but definitely familiar – just like unwrapping ornaments for the tree that we have had for years, or getting out the centerpieces that should have been disposed of years ago. Trouble is, we just can’t part with them – too many memories and ties to the past.
And to some degree, that is the beauty of this season. Memories of our distant past and the traditions of our youth, intertwined with the newer traditions we have come to adopt. Sometimes as a result of family additions, such as the marriages of children, or geographical changes as a result of a new job or a new home. In any event, we come to blend the old and the new and the next generations will start their own traditions while hopefully retaining some of the things that have become dear to us.
Such is the case in the first several chapters of the book of Luke, the beginning of the Christmas story. As you may recall, the Old Testament prophets had been predicting a Savior for many years. And they predicted where He would be from, and sure enough, it was during a pilgrimage back to Bethlehem, the family’s home town, that Joseph and his wife Mary witnessed the birth of the baby Jesus.
We are told in Luke 2:4-7, the beginning of the Christmas story, “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
There probably isn’t anyone among us who hasn’t heard this miraculous story before, but we forget the details of how Joseph and his family went back to their home to be counted in the census. And it does us good to be reminded of the past, again and again. Just like the traditions of our past, and the recollections of our youth.
My encouragement tonight is that we are in the season where traditions are created and re-lived, year to year. So make this holiday season a memorable one. My prayer is that laughter, joy, peace, health and other things memorable are a part of your Christmas this year. And I hope that you keep the reason for the season foremost in your mind – that little child, God in the flesh, who came to live among us for a short time to show us the way to the Father…. Grace and peace…..