In October some of us had the chance to visit Bethlehem. Bethlehem is under the authority of the Palestinians, so everyone who enters the city has to go through a security checkpoint.
In the Christmas carol we sing: “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.” It wasn’t still the day we were there. A lot of people and a lot of traffic were trying to fit into a little town. It didn’t resemble the words of the carol: “How silently.”
A church is now over the site where it is believed Jesus was born. A big restoration project is going on at the church. Scaffolding was up and construction crews were at work. That resulted in even less space for the many tourists who were there to squeeze into. Some of the tourists from other countries were more accustomed to squeezing into tight spaces than some of us Americans who like to have our own personal space. There is one doorway into the Nativity site. It is purposely low so everyone who enters will be forced to kneel as they come to where the King of kings was born. Only one person can get through the entryway at a time.
It was coming toward the end of the day and the church was only open for a limited time. But we all got into the room and saw the spot where it is believed the birth happened and the baby was placed in a manger. Now it is ornate with icons and candles and chandeliers hanging all around. How different it is now from how it must have been 2,000 years ago.
It was far from ornate back then. Groups weren’t competing over who had ownership of the spot like they are now. When Joseph and Mary arrived it was the one spot in Bethlehem that was available to the young family. Some shepherds and later some magi were the only people who paid attention to what happened at that site. Now people flock there from all over the world.
Bethlehem was a busy, crowded place back then as people came from various other places in Judea to comply with the Roman census. The crowds didn’t pay much attention to this young couple giving birth to their firstborn son. It is similar today. We can get busy with other things and not pay attention to the Baby born in Bethlehem.
The crowds, the tour buses, the politics and the security issues can make present-day Bethlehem a bit chaotic. The crowds that came for the census made it chaotic back then as well. “There was no room for them at the inn” (Luke 2:7). But the Son of God was still willing to come. He is willing to enter our lives, even though they can be complicated, crowded and chaotic. We don’t have to get everything straightened out before He comes. Our lives at times can look like Bethlehem – a place with confusion and strife. But Jesus is graciously willing to come and bring peace and healing.
May He come to your home and life and bless you with a wonderful Christmas!