This is from Mark Buchanan’s book, Things Unseen:
From 1985 to 1987, Rick Hanson, a paraplegic athlete, circled the globe on his wheelchair to raise awareness of and money for spinal cord research.
It was a grueling trip. There are photos of him in all kinds of weather: burning heat, slashing rain, swirling blizzard, howling wind; and in all terrain: desert wastelands, dense forests, patchwork farmlands, craggy mountains…
Mile upon mile upon tiresome mile. Hands thick with calluses. Thighs bruised, back blistered. Weariness in him like a rumor of death.
But on May 23, 1987, Rick Hanson came home.
When he was still far away, many miles from Vancouver, people gathered to welcome him. As he got nearer, the crowd thickened along both sides of the highway: hundreds of people, then thousands, then thousands on thousands. They roared, clapped, cheered, and wept. They threw flowers. Rick moved with power and grace, effortless…
As Rick got nearer the stadium, the streets grew impossibly dense with people. Helicopters hovered overhead. Police in cars and on motorcycles flanked his sides. Other wheelchair athletes joined him…
Rick Hanson entered B.C Place. He swooped through the wide lower gates and glided out onto the stadium floorand sixty thousand people went berserk. Leaping, dancing, blowing horns, whirling clackers, the air shrill with wolf whistles, exploding with applause, swelling with throaty shouts of welcome and triumph.
Can you imagine what that must have been like—after such a long, grueling journey to receive such a rousing welcome from so many people you didn’t even know? I would imagine the fatigue was much less powerful and whatever aches and pains he had suddenly loosened their grip on him. I imagine it would be indescribable to have so many be so happy to see you.
Today we’re going to meet some of the people who were waiting on Jesus when he arrived. Jesus’ welcome party was not so large or boisterous. For someone who is the Messiah, the hope of nations, his birth went largely unnoticed.
But his arrival did not go entirely unnoticed. And that’s worth celebrating.