“The Road to Bethlehem” Advent devotion for December 7, 2021. Photo by Derek Liang on Unsplash
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David. (Luke 2:1, 3-4)
I chuckle when someone says, “Back home we always used to…” or let’s me know, “We’re going to travel this Christmas; it will be good to be home.” Many times, these are folks who have lived around here for twenty years or more. Or like me who left home when I started college, over forty years ago. Yet when someone asks, “Where are you from” I answer, “Philadelphia.” No matter now long you’ve been gone, your hometown is always your hometown.
Once the census was decreed, Joseph traveled from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem, a town south of Jerusalem. That was the place he considered his hometown, tracing his ancestry back to David.
I wonder if Joseph ever went back to Bethlehem. We know that after their flight to Egypt to escape Herod’s killing of the babies in Bethlehem, he took his family back to Nazareth, far from the power center of Jerusalem. Jesus would be known as “Jesus of Nazareth,” and maybe that’s what felt like his hometown, but his official birthplace was Bethlehem.
The apostle Paul wrote, “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20), to remind us that our true home is with the Lord, who we know also came from heaven. I guess you can say it’s our hometown. So when you feel like you don’t fit in or you don’t understand some of the local customs or you even get a little homesick for somewhere different, it’s because our true hometown is his kingdom.
If you’ve been away for a while, you might be surprised at how much things change when you go back to your hometown. The house you grew up in was remodeled. A shopping center replaced the park where you used to play. There many more stoplights and many more lanes of traffic. It feels familiar, but it’s different.
Will heaven feel like a trip to a far away place, or will it seem like home? That’s an interesting question. On the one hand, we’ll be far away from a world filled with sadness and suffering. But on the other hand, we’ll be with the Lord, who has been with us all along. I’m convinced it will seem different, but it will definitely feel like home!
Lord, thank you for the memories of my hometown, both here on earth and in heaven. I can’t wait for the chance to go back home. Amen.