“It was in the season of Christmas that I came out of my little garden…and began to walk backwards through history to the place from which Christmas came.” G.K. Chesterton
“You’re not going to believe what happened to me,” said a woman sitting across from me at a doctor’s office. “I was walking with a friend on a narrow trail and I was having a little trouble hearing her. She had been very sick so I really wanted to hear what she had to say so I turned around and started to walk backwards. I could see her and hear her better but who knew how hard it was to walk backwards. I found myself stumbling a bit and then at one point, I got off track and fell.”
G.K. Chesterton set off on a journey as well. In taking a walk in his garden he realized it was a time to take a deeper journey, to “walk backward through history to the place from which Christmas came.” We can take the same journey. It may help us see Jesus. It may help us hear Jesus this Christmas.
John the gospel writer tells us about the story of Christmas by going way back. He writes, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Word is Jesus. (John 1:1) From the very beginning, we also see that God loves and values us. We are his people. We belong to him. We are his sheep, in need of his care and guidance. When we are lost, he will find us.
When we stumble or fall off the path, he will be there with us.
The prophet Isaiah said: “For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isa 30:15)
Throughout scripture, we are told to remember God and all he has done. His love never fails and all his ways are trustworthy and good. We are told to return to God and trust in his ways for he alone is our refuge and our strength. He alone can save us. We are told to return to him because we keep losing our way. We are told to return to him because with him we find ourselves and a life worth living.
“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength.” But if you keep reading what Isaiah has to say we find, “But you refused.”
They did not return to God.
They did not find rest in God.
They did not trust in God.
They went their own way.
But God did not give up on them. Isaiah says, “So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God.” (30:18, NLT)
It’s our turn now. We need God’s love and compassion. We need to let go of our ways and return to God. Let’s open our hearts and minds to the promise of Christmas because “to sing while shepherds watched their flocks is to hum an incantation that might, if we allow it, transport us to a grassy hillside in Judea two thousand years ago, when celestial choirs filled the sky and proclaimed good news for all mankind.”*
The story of Christmas is that the Holy God became lowly - the Immanuel, God with us. John, the beloved disciple tells us that Jesus was a real person. He saw Jesus with his eyes, heard him with his ears, and touched him with his own hands. He spent time with Jesus and had fellowship with him and became his friend. (1Jn 1: 1-3)
In his great love and mercy, God came to us on that first Christmas. He wants to be with us and have a personal relationship with us. He will not give up on us. In him, we find hope. In him we find peace. In him we find rest. In remembering that first silent night, quietness and strength can enter our soul. Looking back, we can see the way forward - to live with trust and expectancy, knowing God is with us.
*Ryan Whitaker Smith, Winter Fire: Christmas with G.K. Chesterton