Summary: I received my first 50-mile badge about 1969 hiking up in the Lassen National Park. The first day we hiked 5.5 miles up a hill and it took us 5.5 hours.

I received my first 50-mile badge about 1969 hiking up in the Lassen National Park. The first day we hiked 5.5 miles up a hill and it took us 5.5 hours. It was so steep a climb that the switchbacks were no more than 10 apart at their widest point.

Our packs were heavy too as we had all 9 days of food with us. My pack was easily 30% of my body weight—40+lbs. One of our leaders had his two little kids along, ages about 7-9, and their packs was probably 50% or more of these kids’ body weight. I mention this because today’s standards are that a child’s backpack should not be “more than 10-16 percent of their total weight (Lavigne).”

Preparation and packing are required for any trip. Our Advent theme is “Let Us Go Now to Bethlehem” likewise, requires us to prepare. That night, the shepherds knew their way through the dark to the town, it wasn’t a city. For us it is a much harder hike. We really don’t know the way, we’re not familiar with the countryside and too many today just don’t really care.

To manage this trip, we need to decide three things. What are we going to take? What are we going to leave behind? And who will we follow?

What do we take?

We take a living trust in God and His goodness. Mary trusted like this, even though “she was greatly troubled” (v 29) at Gabriel’s greeting. What could “the Lord is with you!” mean for a young teenage girl? But Mary trusts this messenger of God even though she has no idea how it could happen (v34).

She trusts that God knows what He is doing. The grace that has been pronounced upon Mary has nothing to do with her or her character. God calls her favored and blessed “not because of her own merit…but simply because she is the chosen vessel for this demonstration of God’s grace (Bock 58).”

We must listen and seek God’s revelation of His working. Mary’s response to Gabriel is evidence of her character, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (v. 38). She has heard and determined this was God’s plan even though others would not believe it.

Jesus quotes Isaiah 61 in the synagogue in Nazareth. Luke 4:20-21 says,

“He rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’.”

The town folk didn’t pound him on the back and say, “We always knew he was something special”. They liked what he said, verse 22 says “And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth” but this was because he was Joseph’s kid. When he spells it out for them that HE is the prophet it is as if someone flipped a switch on the people. Those in synagogue that day were “filled with wrath”. They drove him toward the cliff on which Nazareth meaning to toss him off.

What do we leave?

Who do we follow?

Continuing with the motif of traveling to Bethlehem this Advent it is important to realize that any trip takes planning and packing. When packing remember the old adage, “take twice as much money and half as many clothes”. What makes this hike not easy is the decisions we have to make about 1) of what must we let go. 2). What do we take with us? 3). Who do we follow? Who are the possible leaders we can seek out.?

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