Saturday, December 12, 2020
BABY BORN IN BETHLEHEM
SCRIPTURE READING Luke 2:1- 6
KEY VERSES: He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. Luke 2:5,6
Luke tells of Jesus’ birth in just 6 verses. Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem to register for the census. The NIV Bible suggests that the word “manger” indicates that Jesus was born in a stable. Tradition says it was a cave used as a stable.
I had the privilege of going to visit Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity this past February. The church closed because of coronavirus on March 5 and reopened two months later. I feel lucky to have been allowed inside. It is not an easy visit. The Church of the Nativity is actually two churches, the Orthodox Basilica of the Nativity and the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Catherine. Justinian I, the Byzantine emperor, rebuilt the Nativity Church toward the end of his reign in 565 AD. Since then, the church has been expanded, added to and fought over by and between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. The large crowds that come to see Jesus birthplace mean the wait to see the spot where Jesus was born and the manger can take several hours. People come from all over the world. Sometimes, they become impatient and unruly. Our Palestinian tour guide helped us stay safe. Three churches control the site — the Catholics, Greek Orthodox and the Armenian Church. In addition to people waiting in line there are times when specific prayers, celebrations, or masses take place in the church. The visit to Bethlehem was strange indeed.
This year here at St John’s our celebration of Jesus’ birth will be different because of COVID-19 but hopefully we will be able to contemplate and appreciate the true wonder and majesty of God’s gift to us. In retrospect, I think Mary and Joseph’s experience in Bethlehem probably had some unruly crowds in addition to the people who came to adore their baby boy.
Christmas is a time when love came down. Let us rejoice in it!
PRAYER: Dear Lord, We are so incredibly grateful for the gift of Your Son Jesus. Help us to fully appreciate this gift of love You have given us. Help us to share this love with others always. Amen