Devotion: The Carol of Traveling Sounds
By Kelly Smith
“At Christmas, all roads lead home.” ~Marjorie Holmes
The sound of travel thrills me. My earliest memory of this auditory obsession dates back to the early 80’s. I remember walking up and down the dirt drive in front of my grandparents’ old chicken house just to hear the gravel crunch beneath my Jordache sneakers. Besides listening to my grandmother read, it was my favorite thing to do at their house.
Back home, my ears soaked up the hiss and pop as I rode my bike over our bumpy, orange-colored chert drive. When I was old enough to ride the streets of my neighborhood, the hum of rubber on asphalt added to the thrill of the wind in my hair. At sixteen, I traded in my banana seat for a red Chevy Cavalier. I rolled my windows down to hear the tires crush the rocks on the dirt roads of my small town.
Even now, I find inspiration in the distant whir of jet engines passing over my house. I consider the hopeful travelers on board. Vacations, family, business deals, and discovered dreams wait on the other side of their journey. I recall the roar of the takeoff during my own airplane rides, each journey a memory of personal bravery.
The Christmas season is full of opportunities to listen as we travel. Be it by air, highway, or a walk down a well-worn path, we set out to celebrate the newborn King with family and friends. It is also the season to imagine the carol of traveling sounds playing around the characters of the nativity as they find their places around the manger:
The rhythmic clip-clop of donkey hooves on the road to Bethlehem.
The slap of leather sandals on the street as a husband desperately searches for a safe place to deliver a son.
The chorus of angels as the shepherds turn their flocks toward the stable.
The intermittent grunt of camels and jingle of golden coins as a caravan of wise men traverses the long miles.
One sound eludes my imagination. Close your eyes with me, and listen. We have to be stone-still to hear it. What does it sound like when heaven comes to earth?
The distance traveled exceeds human calculations. The barriers of time and space can’t confine it. The mix of joy and sorrow must be equally deafening and silent.
Jesus, both fully God and fully man, traveled from the splendors of heaven to rest his infant head on a bed of straw. Can you even begin to imagine the sound in his ear as he made this journey?
The Father’s assurance that this is the only way to save the creation they love.
The two-part angel choir, praising his majesty and mourning his fate.
The hiss of the enemy’s lies—his best effort to stop salvation’s plan.
The cries of his mother as labor and love push him toward his destiny.
The sobs of those who bow before his cradle, relieved and humbled by the Messiah sleeping in front of them.
My heart can’t take what my ears imagine. It’s too much for me. But it was never too much for Jesus. He heard it all, and he came anyway. When the sounds of suffering surrounded him as he ministered, he moved toward them. When the scraping of wood followed him as he carried the cross, he put one foot in front of the other. The grinding of a rolling stone reminded him that he was almost home. Finally, the song of the angels’ rejoicing found his ear as he took his place beside the Father once again.
Father, thank you for sending your Son on such a courageous journey. We cannot fully imagine the sounds Jesus heard as flesh wrapped around holiness. Today, we join the sounds of heaven and raise our voices in worship. Jesus, we love and adore you! Thank you for giving us the gift of your life.
Scripture for Reflection
“All of this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means God with us).” (Matthew 1:23 ESV)
“Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face. Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted.” (Psalm 89:14-16 KJV)
“And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’” (Revelation 5:13 ESV)
Reach for More
Jesus’ journey was motivated by his love for us. As you travel this Christmas season, take the time to listen to the carol of traveling sounds. Allow those sounds to be your cue to thank Jesus for making the trip from heaven to earth and back again.
Please come back and leave a comment telling us about your traveling sounds, or share your progress on social media using the hashtag #tgtreachformore. We would love to hear from you.