The season of Advent is several things: a time of expectation, a time of anticipation, a time of waiting. There is a sense, however, in which Advent can be seen as a road that leads from Thanksgiving to Christmas. It is a road which we have traveled before. On California’s west coast there is a highway stretching some 600 miles from San Diego to Sonoma. It follows the original mission trail carved out by Franciscan Friar, Junipero Serra, in the 18th century. It is called El Camino Real, meaning “The King’s Highway” or “The Royal Road.” The road we travel these few weeks leading to Christmas is, in many ways, also a Royal Road which culminates in a stable in Bethlehem, but it does not end there. For Bethlehem is, for Christians, only the beginning of a Royal Road we travel throughout our lives.

As we travel this road, we walk with a companion. “Joseph went up from Nazareth to Bethlehem with Mary, his wife, who was with child. And while they were there, she gave birth to her first born son.” There it is, the whole mystery of Christmas wrapped up in a few words. It is a journey which begins in Bethlehem and continues throughout our life to its destination, which is an empty tomb in Jerusalem and the promise of eternal life. Throughout this life-long journey, Jesus is the companion who walks with us, unseen, but always present. Jesus is “El Camino Real,” “The Royal Road,” the faithful Companion for all our days. For Jesus is Emmanuel, “God with us,” on every step of our journey throughout Advent and beyond.

– Rev. George H. Pike