Forty Steps to Bethlehem
Meditations for the Journey through Philip's Fast
Many of us have gone on a trip at one time or another in our lives. Many of us prepare annually for the celebration of Christmas. 40 Steps to Bethlehem combines these two activities and guides the reader through the forty days prior to Christmas - known as Philip's Fast in the Christian East. It overlaps with Advent, better known in the Christian West, and features suggested Scriptural readings for each "step" to lead the reader to a more holy celebration of the Feast of the Incarnation of Our Lord (i.e., Christmas).
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Step 20 - Adjusting the Mirrors
Scripture: Malachi 3:1-3
Before we can proceed, we need to adjust the mirrors on our vehicle. This is because we not only need to see the traffic that is ahead of us, but the traffic alongside and behind us, as well. If we miss another vehicle - either in our blind spot or getting too close to us, this could result in an accident, and we would never reach our destination!
Likewise, during the holy season of the Christmas Fast, we need to contemplate on those who have gone before us. We read the various prophecies pointing to the coming of the Messiah: "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14); For a son has been born for us, a son has been given to us, and dominion has been laid on his shoulders; and this is the name he has been given, 'Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace' (Isaiah 9:6), etc. Looking in this "rear-view mirror" of salvation history brings the present into clearer focus.
Also, we need to be aware of those who travel alongside us - our fellow travelers on the Road to Bethlehem. They, too, desire to worship the Saviour through Whom eternal life is promised to those who believe in Him. Thus, when we worship, we gather together in the Name of the Lord. While private prayer is good and necessary, it does not replace communal prayer with other believers. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes, "We have been given possession of an unshakeable kingdom. Let us therefore be grateful and use our gratitude to worship God in the way that pleases him, in reverence and fear. For our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:28-29).
Dear Lord, remind us that we are not alone on our journey to find You and worship You. Help us to recall the many who have preceded us and journey with us on this quest. May together our voices reach to You as we acclaim You as Lord, God, and Saviour for all eternity. Amen.