BRADY COLUMN: The Return Trip

Published 9:30 am Thursday, December 22, 2022

“And I heard him explain as he drove out of sight, ‘Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.” Yes, the grand old man in the bright red suit is back at rest again. Christmas gifts have been exchanged and opened, family members have packed up and gone home, left-overs are in abundance and the Christmas tree has a strange and outdated look.   Though it is actually, not a day but a season and thought it extends from Christmas Eve to Epiphany, January 6, Christmas 2022 is over.  There is a definite note of let-down as we give this contemplation.

However, we find some very thought-provoking words in Luke 2:20, “And the shepherds returned.” It was the return trip! The shepherds had their wondrous experience, and now it was over. They had been to the stable in Bethlehem, but they couldn’t linger there.  So they returned to their familiar pastures and their regular routine of tending sheep. Back from a great moment of shining happiness, they must go to the ordinary humdrum things of everyday life.

Today, I want to offer a few comments on the return trip.

First, the return trip will more than likely have difficult moments!  It’s so easy to go with hurrying feet when expectation leads ahead.  It’s so easy to move along sprightly when we are looking forward to something-when Christmas is coming, or when we are going home for the holidays or when we are leaving for a vacation. But what do we when expectation has ended!  Certainly, for many children and often adults as well, there is a strong sense of let-down when the Christmas season with its multiple preparations has come and gone. The first thing to remember is that this is very normal and natural. We simply do not live on a perpetual high.  Not any one of us. Life is a series of peaks and valleys, highs and lows, ups and downs.

Second, the return trip can be a place of spiritual renewal!  “And the shepherds returned,” we are told. But how? “Glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen”(Luke 2:20).   Those ordinary shepherds took the manger experience with them on the return trip. And the amazing result was not so much a let-down but a meaningful spiritual renewal. They returned glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Helmut Thielicke, the noted German preacher and theologian, said that when he was asked, why he as a Christian celebrated Christmas, he always answered first and foremost, “Because here something happens to me, therefore something can happen in me-but only if I pause and surrender to him.  In truth, Bethlehem is only the first step in a much longer journey.

Third, the return trip will in all probability determine the destiny of the world! It’s what happens from now on that’s going to determine the difference in the world in which we live. If we want this world of ours to be better in the future, than it has been in the past, then we simply cannot afford to allow this manger experience to dim or fade away.

In the published writings of the late Dr.  William Temple, former Archbishop of Canterbury, this statement is found: “When all is said, the chief way for each of us to bring about a better world is the simple one of living a better life-more honest, more pure, more self-controlled, more generous.”