Tag Archives: Bethlehem

Changing Seasons

Can you feel the change in the air and, more specifically, on the air?  Yesterday may have been Thanksgiving, but today is the beginning of the Christmas season.  Overnight we went from enjoying the autumnal comforts of pumpkin spices and falling leaves to enjoying the winter delights of peppermint swirls and drifting snow.  Yesterday may have been spent watching competing teams play football, but tonight we will be watching competing networks broadcast ‘specials’ featuring Frosty and Burgermeister Meisterburger.  This weekend we will witness Christmas lights begin to twinkle on our front lawns and Christmas trees being set in front windows.  I hope not to alarm you, but Christmas Day is exactly four weeks away.

But this year is different, isn’t it?  Because of the travel and gathering restrictions many of us face, there will be much smaller lines at the big box stores this “Black Friday” and much longer shipping times from the online retailers this month.  There will also be fewer ‘cookie swaps’ and Christmas parties (although “Secret Santa” gifts may be as simple as visiting Amazon).  That may allow us the serendipitous blessing of more time to spend with those closest to us and more opportunity to stream our season’s greetings than in Christmases past.  We will have to be creative, but we can still make this the most wonderful time of the year.

Besides, sometimes the crowds around us keep us from appreciating the gift of Christmas before us.  We, too, are sometimes distracted by all the hubbub of the holidays to see the truth as it approaches.  We are sometimes the “Inn Crowd”, the huddle of humanity in the Bethlehem of our day, too busy or too burdened to recognize the gift of God about to be given.  We are sometimes guilty of misguided priorities and pointing the Savior to the stall in the back.  The “desire of every nation” has been delivered to our doorstep, and we are in danger of dismissing him due to the distractions of the day. 

Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.  Revelation 3:20

But this year is different, isn’t it?  The crowds have socially distanced and we have settled for a celebration in isolation.  In the stillness of this strange and strained setting, can you hear the knock on the door of your heart?  In spite of all the changes that COVID has brought (or maybe because of them), this year may be the perfect time to get out of the inn and away from all the revelry and travel back to the stable – to hear the shepherds and see the child, to marvel at his radiance and muse about the shepherds’ report.  Do whatever you need to do to prepare yourself for the blessed arrival of God’s greatest gift: listen to a Christmas Carol playlist on Spotify, stream an Advent service on YouTube (might I suggest Calvary’s?), or watch “The Bishop’s Wife” on Amazon Prime.  This Christmas may be the best chance our generation has to worship the newborn king together.

I pray that we all are enveloped by the enormous love we encounter at Christmas.

Remembering the Blessed Event

Last week, I was intrigued by the following tweet:

My wife and I regularly, when their birthdays come around, share with our children the events of the day they came into the world.  The details of each birth had certain peculiarities – the smell of chocolate chip cookies, the speed (or the slowness) of the labor, the lateness of the hour, the travelling to the hospital as snow was falling at rush hour.  I remember quite a bit about those four days, but a mother’s recollection is even greater.  I can only imagine that Mary’s memory was no different and she must have recounted the birth of her first-born child on occasion.

“Dad and I had to go to Bethlehem just before you were born.  We were there with a bunch of distant relatives, mom and dad’s cousins and their children, sort of like a big family reunion.  There were so many people there!  When we got there, there were no rooms left in the inn for us, but your dad found us a small cave where some animals were kept, and we sat in there so that I could rest for a bit.  When the time came, you arrived, right in front of some goats and a cow.  You were so small, so beautiful.  We counted your little toes and your little fingers, and we were so happy that you had ten of each.

“You and I fell asleep for a bit, you in a feeding trough on some hay and me lying next to you.  Your dad handed me a scarf, the one I had been wearing on my head, and we wrapped you up in it to keep you warm.  One thing that was special about that night was that a little after you were born we had some visitors – shepherds from the fields nearby.  Daddy woke me up and the first thing I saw was the nose of one of their sheep.  They told your dad and I a wonderful thing about you: they said that angels came to them, in a blinding light, and told them that you had been born and that they could find you in that manger.  They were so happy to see you.  I think they told everyone in the entire town that you were born.

“Speaking of visitors, a little while later, while you were still itty-bitty, we were at a friend’s house when men from the east came to see you.  They brought you special gifts – frankincense, myrrh and GOLD!  You kept looking at the sparkles on the wall that the gold was making.  They also knew you were a special baby, my little king.  They told us that saw a star in the sky and spent months following it…right to you!  Just like your dad and I, they knew you were God’s greatest blessing.”

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  Luke 2:19

Mind you, this narrative is mostly speculation.  The place (a manger in Bethlehem) and the people (shepherds and stargazers) were recorded in Scriptures.  It might have happened this way.  We cannot imagine all the things that Mary pondered, but I can imagine she shared some of it with Jesus – even though He probably knew more of the story than she did.  As you catch view of the nativity scenes that populate mantels and town greens, let your imagination soar as you, too, ponder the birth of Christ the Lord.