The Fifth Lesson: Luke 2:1-7
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. 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. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Bethlehem is a quiet little town nestled in the hills around Jerusalem. It is the perfect place for God to show up. This is not just my opinion. Countless prophets and sages for thousands of years have told us to go and look in this dusty, sleepy, little village if we want to find Emmanuel – God with us.
Bethlehem is a place for seekers for those moving out of the bustle and into the stillness. It’s a place of safety, an out of the way spot that offers a bit of peace and quiet for the dreams of our hearts to take shape and be born. It’s a place where joy thrives. Joy found in song or silence, joy in the laughter of close friends or a gentle hug, joy that is enlivening and painstaking all at the same time. Bethlehem is a place where heaven meets earth.
Out among the rolling hills on a star filled night, it’s the kind of place where joy might be hiding for a moment only to suddenly appear in a blaze of an angel filled horizon. Bethlehem might be the last place you look for joy, but it’s there. For you see, God’s gift of joy will be found on the edges and outskirts of an overburdened Jerusalem, nestled in the hay.
As you hum along or sing with all your might this little carol in Raleigh, NC, do not despair that Bethlehem is all the way across the ocean. Take a look around. Consider how God’s deep and abiding joy can be found even now and especially now – right where you are. Bethlehem is one of the places that held the incarnation long ago, but there are many, many other locations and times that God has become and is becoming undeniably present. Be on the look out! Get your friends and family in on the search. And while you look, hum a little melody to help your heart hold space for the mystery and joy that await this Advent season.