By Tracy Hutchinson Wallace. Check out another testimony from her HERE
Every year, since I was a teenager (with a short break when I went off to university and moved away from home for the first time), I have spent the Christmas Season reading a remarkable novel by Norah Lofts called How Far To Bethlehem”.
From one book-selling site …
“Korean astronomer Melchior had never seen anything like it; the star was so bright, so full of tragedy and glory. He knew at once that it was his task to find the child and warn its parents. But Melchior was old, poor and unwise in the ways of men. Providence took him to the barbarian King, Gaspar (think Genghis Khan), who wanted to know if this great King in the East would be a threat to his empire. The escaped slave with a tremendous knowledge of languages, Balthazar helped them find their way across hazardous and violent countries to Judea. Just as the three men began their journey, a young girl stood bravely before her betrothed husband in Nazareth, trying to find the words to tell him that she was pregnant. Not only was the child not his, but moreover, she had never known a man. How could she make him understand that their destiny was to raise the Christ-child together? This classic novel weaves together all the characters of the Nativity, from the gentle strength of Mary and the kindness and loyalty of Joseph through the tempestuous journey of the Three Wise Men and the tragedy of the shepherds to the misery of the Innkeeper and his wife. As the day of the miraculous birth drew closer, all those who were to take part in the greatest story ever told were given the choice whether to sink beneath their fear or to seek salvation.”
I have always loved this book because something new strikes me—my own series of epiphanies! After the last year’s turbulence, I found some solace in the compassion, understanding, freshness, and faith of this version of the birth of the Christ Child. And, as a particular help for me, there are practical examples of action to anchor the mysticism of the 2000-plus-year-old story in the real world of the 21st century. Spoiler alerts …
Mary’s mother, Anne, doted on her only child. She was ferociously opposed to the newlyweds’ plans to travel to Bethlehem for the census. But Mary and Joseph knew what was right for them and their child. They made their plans. They took care of the practical aspects of travel. Food—check. Transport (donkey)—check. Emergency funds (Anne eventually came around)—check. But mostly, they trusted their faith. And each other.
Similarly, I have had to push back hard against well-meaning commentary from some around me and set my mind and eyes on the direction that makes the most sense. This has meant leaving folks by the wayside on Eastern Main Road and heading up the Churchill Roosevelt Highway with just me and the kids in the car. Sometimes, a very lonely, scary drive, especially in the dead of night. But it’s what I need to do to keep motivated throughout this cancer journey.
The Innkeeper and his wife had a … complicated relationship. But he put that behind him when he saw Mary’s need. He was ready to sacrifice his pride and self-esteem to ensure that the young people were taken care of in the best way he could arrange. And in giving up his ego, he gained so much more than he could have imagined. A lesson for all of us.
There are also stories about consequences, not good ones, in the novel. For example, King Gaspar made a hard, deliberate choice to protect his fellow travellers—one that would make Pontius Pilate’s decision to free Barabbas 33 years later all the more poignant. That part of the story tells me that every decision I make to speak up, and out, or not, comes with consequences for myself and others. And I am reminded that I must accept fully ALL the implications of my decisions, not just those that are palatable or convenient for me.
Even though I got through the first 12 months after the diagnosis, as I said last July, I am still living on borrowed time—anytime between now and October 2022, things could end. There’s been some small spread in places and possible disease stabilisation in others. Chemo is done, for now. Radiation is not yet on the horizon. Hormone therapy is currently giving me hell, and surgery is definitely off the table. I spent the last week of December in the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, with my only goals being to finish Norah Loft’s novel and to wake up in my own bed at home on January 1, 2022. What I am hoping to do now is to use the time I have left to follow the examples of the Magi.
Like Melchior, to give everything—energy, intellect, faith—for the causes that I believe in , even if I have doubts that I will ever see the fruit of my labours.
Like Gaspar, to use both stealth and overt action to achieve my long-term goals.
Like Balthazar, being pragmatic and stoic about my life’s circumstances while still having faith that all will eventually be made clear.
Let’s see what 2022 has in store… and here’s to your own epiphanies!