(This is a rough adaptation of my meditation from the contemplative service this morning.)
I've done a lot of travelling over the years, and I've got my fair share of horror stories. Delayed flights, lost luggage, missed connections, major reroutes (landing in London when I was supposed to be in Amsterdam!) and my personal favorite - exploding shampoo!!!!
These trips are frustrating at the time but now I look back on them with a certain level of nostalgia. "Remember when the car overheated and we got stranded over night in Roswell?"
I wonder if Mary and Joseph looked back on the trip to Bethlehem that way? "Remember when we had to make that trip to Bethlehem for the census when you were heavily pregnant and we had that stubborn lame donkey and when we got there the Motel Six had lost our reservations and we had to sleep in the stable?!"
Some journeys go fine, others we limp along. Sometimes we got a stone in our shoe - a minor irritation and others we get rocks so big that we can't see where we are heading anymore. Sometimes we things get difficult we lose sight of Bethlehem.
I can think of times in my past where there were problems that seemed insurmountable but with God's help I made it through. Boulders that looked impossible to move and totally overwhelming were eventually surpassed.
In the Hebrew scriptures people of faith often piled rocks together to make Altars at significant places where they wanted to remember God's faithfulness. When we look back at the 'rocks' in our life that with God's help we have survived I think those very Obstacles become Altars. Altars of God's Faithfulness, God's Mercy and God's Grace.
So as we journey to Bethlehem this Advent take a look at the stones in your path. Maybe you are just limping along or maybe the rock is so large that Bethlehem is nothing but a distant fantasy. Offer those 'stones' in prayer to God - and ask Him to transform those Obstacles into Altars.