The Road You’re On

The Road You’re On

Eighty years ago this New Year’s Eve, Henry Deutschendorf Jr was born in Roswell, NM. His dad, Henry Deutshcndorf Sr, was a military man so young Henry lived in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arizona California, and Texas before Henry Jr. grew up and moved to Colorado. Young Henry began using his middle name and changed his last name adopting his newfound state’s largest city — he became known as John Denver. Though he died twenty-six years ago in a plane crash he piloted as the sole occupant, his songs have gone on to outlive him and he’s become something of a folk legend. His hits in the late 1960s to mid-1970s included “Leaving On A Jet Plane”, “Rocky Mountain High”, “Sunshine on My Shoulders”, “Annie’s Song”, “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”

That last song was really the first song that catapulted Denver, personally, to stardom. The lyrics of that song start with:

Almost heaven, West Virginia. Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.

Life is old there, older than the trees. Younger than the mountains, growin’ like a breeze.

Country roads, take me home. To the place I belong.

West Virginia, Mountain Mama. Take me home, country roads.

Maybe you’ve heard that song for many years or just recently in a store or fast food restaurant. What’s interesting about the song is that it is reported that John Denver had never been to West Virginia when he and some others wrote that song. The other folks likely had not been to West Virginia either. They had been to the adjacent State of Maryland, but not West Virginia proper.

I remember after a number of years as a local church pastor, I was struggling with what to speak about at Christmas. After doing sixty or so Christmas messages I was running a bit low on the creative side. Interestingly enough, as a district office worker, most churches don’t need us around Christmas time because it’s one of the biggest times (along with Easter) for the local church and its pastor. In the last few years, however, I have had the privilege of speaking more around Christmas time. This year my thoughts have been drawn to the thought, “the road you’re on.”

For many people, Christmas is a time of gift-giving, family, travel, great traditions, etc. For others, Christmas can be lonely, a reminder of family or personal loss, a time of discouragement and even despair. No matter where you or the people you have the privilege of ministering to this year are, Christmas has the potential to help all of us take stock of the road we’re on. Is it an unfamiliar road, a road we’ve never been on before, maybe we’re afraid or maybe we’re acting like everything is okay when it isn’t? Is it a road that is familiar and we’re just running down the road, going through the familiar routines, just in cruise control? In either case, we could be missing the beauty and wonder of the meaning of Christmas. I often think, as I ponder the familiar Christmas story, how many people missed that first Christmas in Bethlehem because they were just figuratively running down the road, getting things done, doing what they had to do, meeting the deadlines and commitments — what they absolutely had to do and what they could leave out.

What does the road look like this Christmas that you’re on? May it be that each of us could be like Mary, who after having given birth to her firstborn with Joseph by her side, and the shepherds had been to the barn and manger, “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19). May our road this year lead us back to Jesus!

Merry Christmas!