Here’s Hoping For A Camel Ride That Will Bring Us Closer

camel-picture-1My parents have just returned from a visit they made to Tunisia in North Africa. Part of their trip included a camel ride into the desert – an experience that many of us can only dream of ever having. As I look at the pictures of that trip, I begin to get a sense of how far removed the snow-covered landscape of Wisconsin is from the conditions that probably accompanied the wise men as they traveled to visit the newborn king. The material luxuries that feature prominently in our own form of Christmas would of course have been strikingly absent on that first night. But then again, so would many of the things that we consider indispensable in our lives.  The birth of our king is a calling to humble ourselves in front of Jesus for it is at the foot of his manger – the animal ‘eating trough’ – that we truly learn to hope for the glad tidings that await us. 

On the first week of December, our life group decided to take the Blackhawk Advent Conspiracy Christmas Quiz. Some of the multiple choice answers reduced several of us to tears of laughter. The idea that tigers, lions and bears were present in the Nativity scene, for example, appeared so far fetched that we were able to quickly dismiss it as a laughable joke. And yet the quiz also exposed the shortcomings of our knowledge of the Bible.   

What do the New Testament narratives really tell us about Jesus’ birth? For starters, the Gospel of Matthew highlights how the virgin Mary was engaged to be married to Joseph when she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:18). An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph reassuring him and instructing him to name the baby “Jesus” (Matt 1:20-21). The birth of a son to a virgin would thus satsify an ancient prophecy and bring forth God’s promise of salvation: “to fulfill what is right and reject what is wrong” (Isaiah 7:15). 

With the decree by the Roman Emperor Augustus that all should return to their home towns to register for a census, Joseph and Mary began their arduous journey from Nazareth back to Bethlehem (Luke 2:1-5). A brief look at maps of the Holy Land shows that this was no easy holiday trip. After all, Joseph and a very pregnant Mary had to cover 70 miles traveling on foot in the most arid of conditions. But once there, the time came for Mary to give birth. The Gospel of Luke describes the simplicity of the moment – a baby Jesus wrapped in strips of cloth and laid in a manger in the stable because that was no room in the inn (Luke 2:6-7). This is not what one would have expected for the birth of a king who had been sent to rescue God’s people. But such was the paradox of the Nativity story. As one commentator recently noted, “Who understands this God who comes as a child, who steps into our world through a dirty stable and the unlikely arms of an unwed mother?”1

And yet the wise men who had traveled from the east clearly understood the significance of the moment: “”Where is the newborn king of the Jews?” they asked, “We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him.” (Matt 2:2). For the shepherds who were out in the fields tending their flocks, the message they received from the angel of the Lord was equally poignant: “The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David!” (Luke 2:11).

Having found the baby Jesus, the shepherds went out proclaiming the good news to all around. They eventually returned to their flocks praising God for what they had just seen (Luke 2:16-20). The wise men who had followed the star to Bethlehem were similarly overcome with the scene that unfolded in front of them; so much so that they fell down on their knees in adoration opening their treasure chests of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newborn king (Matt 2:9-12).   

What are we making of Christmas?  How are we choosing to celebrate a day that was originally set apart to remember the birth of our Savior?  During the current economic downturn, it is difficult to feel upbeat about much. As we hear of rising unemployment, the volatility of the stock market and rampant disease in Africa, we are tempted to ask about the whereabouts of our Savior. I know people who are directly affected by the roller coaster ride of the auto industry’s woes. Their worries are real as are the threats to their own livelihoods.

And yet amidst our anxieties there is a voice beckoning us to forever re-focus priorities and re-align our commitments to something other than our all-consuming worries and material cravings. We are to tell those who have not heard about the good news how life-transforming it can be by witnessing to them through our actions.  We are to give out encouragement, we are to hug lonely souls, we are to be spontaneous about our acts of kindness and we are to expect nothing from others in return.  

My deepest wish for the days ahead is that we all take an imaginary “camel ride” to the events of our Savior’s birth on that holy night. There may not have been tigers and bears. But there most certainly was a lion – the “Lion Of Judah” – who today desires to dwell in our hearts.  

This year let us commit ourselves to something that transcends our selfish motives. Let us spread the word of hope that comes only through a personal relationship with Christ, and let us set out to fill our Christmas celebrations not with meaningless presents but with His meaningful presence.  

1Jill Carattini (2008), The Lion in the Manger, Slice Of Infinity 12/12/08, Ravi Zacharias Ministries,

Written by Robert Deyes

1 Response to “Here’s Hoping For A Camel Ride That Will Bring Us Closer”

  1. 1 Shere-Ling Kraus-Yao December 17, 2008 at 10:04 am

    I want to have fun with my new found friends. So, we will have a Baking with Friends for Jesus party at our church kitchen next Monday morning. Maybe we can substitute ginger bread house for a manger and tell the story of Jesus’ birth by looking at our creative baking result. Lord, help us with our creativity. Thank you for this inspiring article.

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Act Local: Share gifts of time and resources with those in our community. At the Impact Tree in the Atrium, find opportunities available for individuals, families and life groups. All the information you need will be on the cards by the Tree. Take a card – put an ornament on the tree.

Give Global: On Sunday, December 13 during services, we'll take up an Advent Conspiracy offering (a direct result of spending less) to give towards clean water projects and wheelchair needs in Honduras, Kenya and Romania. If you won’t be able to join us at services on that day but still want to participate, just write "Advent" in the memo of your check and drop it in any of the offering boxes.


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