Friday, December 20, 2013

My View

The city of Bethlehem 2,000 years ago was non-descript, actually more of a village than a city. Sitting approximately six miles south of Jerusalem, one did not make the trek to the City of David unless necessary. It was a town inhabited mostly by olive growers and sheep herders, neither of which were high in the social caste of the time.

Into that generally ignored village came a scared young girl, late in her pregnancy, and her bewildered yet loyal husband. Commanded by the occupying Romans, they had traveled to their home city to participate in the census initiated by the monarch Herod.

Once in the city, they desperately tried to find accommodations. The small town, overflowing with people making a pilgrimage back to their birthplace, had no rooms available. Everywhere the young couple looked and pleadingly sought refuge, they were turned away.

Finally, in desperation, they encamped in a manger. Really, it wasn't a barn like you and I might think, but was a cold and damp grotto, a small cave used to shelter and feed livestock. There, among the smell of manure and the crowding of the animals, the young couple bedded down.

Now the time came when the baby was delivered there in the damp, smelly, cold confines of this cave. Wrapped in cloths and laid in a feed trough, the exhausted young parents marveled at the miracle of life, a miracle that had occurred irrespective of their location, circumstances, and station in life.

Their expectation, their hope of a child was fulfilled.

And that is the message of Christmas.

Into less than ideal circumstances was born a Savior.

Into a dark and smelly cave, the manger, the light of the world pierced the darkness and brought hope.

The message of Christmas is not stuff, the getting and giving of gifts and the hectic schedules jammed with parties and holiday events.

The message of Christmas is that regardless of our circumstances, there is a hope that is waiting to be fulfilled. It is a hope that is not dependent on status, where we work or live, or who we know.

The fulfillment of the Hope of the world occurred in the most improbable of circumstances.

We often look at our life and our current situation and feel...well, hopeless.

Christmas tells us that no matter how desperate, no matter how improbable, no matter how out of line with the expectations of society, there is hope, that we are noticed and loved by a God that sent His son into the world to bring hope to all.

May this Christmas rekindle the hope in all of us for a renewed perspective on our life and our world.


  1. We had an interesting discussion about the choice of the manger in our Sunday School class as it related to the Jewish Laws (Halakha) respecting purity. Because a woman becomes a niddah (unclean) and must separate from the family whenever she has bleeding of uterine origin, it would likely an obvious choice because the livestock was a necessity of survival with the care of the animals being correspondingly high. Because there was a census and likely other family staying in the familiar guestrooms, an unclean woman giving birth would have been in violation of the Halkha for the guests. It makes a lot more sense as to how this happened if you look at it that way... but the obvious symbolism of humility in the location birth is not forgotten either. Also looking into it, the three wise men (likely Zoroastrian Magi and not Kings) and the gifts were a significant part of the story for other reasons in Hebrew customs. Such gifts once were thought to draw the attention of dark spirits, marking the child for disaster. To this day, many Orthodox Jews will not so much as utter the name of a baby until that baby is born, for fear of inviting the 'evil eye'. There is so much depth to this story that I cannot touch with a few words that we lose without the perspective of the cultures/customs; but this all lends itself to the incredible fulfillment of hope over trying circumstance. Thanks for the read!

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