As I wrote in my last post, Christmas and road trips seem to go together.
"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'" (Matthew 2:1-2)
These magi (traditionally called wise men) traveled a long way, and I'm willing to bet it wasn't an easy journey.
Because, well, because of camels.
Camels are gloriously weird creations of our awesome God. For many desert travelers, camels are the transportation mode of choice. They are wondrously designed to maximize all water intake. Even camels' nostrils participate in the collection of moisture.
However, let's be clear on this: camels have horrible body odor and have worse tempers. They spit when they feel threatened. There is no doubt about it, camel tenders and riders have their work cut out with these beasts.
I uncovered a few things about camels I hadn't known before as I was reading up on the wise men.
Camels have a stride not common to most other four-legged animals. That is, the left two legs move then the right two. Although they typically travel at about 25 mph, they can move at speeds as high as 40 mph, often swaying the passenger into motion sickness.
Camels are so adept at utilizing all moisture within their bodies that their urine is excreted as a thick paste. This could make it tricky keeping the camp clean.
Some camels spread a virus known as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), so the tenders may become sick. However, camel poo, if you care to chow down on camel "apples," kills dysentery-causing germs. So, if you have the poos, eat the poo.
I think we can all imagine that the journey the wise men took in search of the Messiah was not a luxurious, relaxing trip. It was long, hard, hot, and full of all sorts of challenges.
And then they arrived at Jerusalem. Unlike many men, they stopped and asked for directions.
At this point I went to my Mapquest program and calculated the distance from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
Six miles from Jesus.
Six miles from the baby King.
Six miles from salvation.
Six miles from forgiveness.
Six miles from eternal life.
Everybody in the story had the same information. Herod, the teachers of the Law, the Jewish scholars, and the three wise men all knew a baby had been born in Bethlehem, and they all knew who the baby was.
Herod knew and tried to kill him.
The teachers and religious scholars knew and ignored him. Apparently six miles was too much.
The wise men went, covered six more miles, and bowed down and worshipped the babe.
The road trip these wise men took helps me examine how far it is between Jesus and me. What will I do, what am I willing to do, how far will I "go," to be with Jesus?
This Christmas season will I make my heart a "manger" where Christ can reside?