“…and this is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket, and lying in a manger.” – Luke 2:12
“Only God could have thought of giving us Christmas,” the pilgrim told me.
“I no longer wonder why the world turns again every year to the Babe born in the innkeeper’s cattle shed,” he said. “A baby bundled tightly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Simple enough to be new every year, miraculous enough to be eternal, tender enough to be personal. Only God would have done it that way.”
“No official proclamation. No fuss. No Madison Avenue ad campaign. If man had done it he would have made a great production. But God did it the way God does so many things in the world. The coming of dawn and the setting of the sun are quiet things. Sleep needs no trumpets to announce it. Flowers bloom in silence. Falling snow makes no more sound than the cat’s paw. And so it was with the coming of the Savior of the World. Just the whimper of a baby, asleep on the hay.
“That’s just like God,” the pilgrim said.
“Bethlehem tells us that the loveliness in life is not in the things that we possess, the titles and checkbook balances and plaques on the wall. Bethlehem tells us that the loveliness in life is in our relationships. ‘Come see the baby. Come spend time with us, and come spend time with the baby…’
“That long ago Judean night when Heaven dipped down to Earth, there were no costly jewels, no golden streets, but instead a place where God was at home in a stable…a place where shepherds were as welcome as wise men…a place where, for a moment, nothing in Creation was more important than a donkey who bore on his back a suffering woman, a woman of God’s favor, a woman who stepped into a barn on the brink of the Fullness of Time and into a place where a stable filled with animals was a temple fit for a king.
“That’s so like God. To send his one and only son into a place humble, a place where voices joined in chorus with the first cry of a newborn. There is nothing in the world so new as Christmas, and nothing in the world so old.
“Bethlehem tells us that God is awake while most all the world sleeps. It was while the world lay in darkness that God chose to come down to Earth. He came into a world of darkness then, He comes into a world of darkness now. Isn’t it comforting to know that in a time of darkness and despair, God is always awake, is alive, and is still ruling the universe?
“Christmas asks us to follow the star, to look for the light, and to listen for the baby. Where there is light, there can be no dark, and so it was into the night that the baby came.
“The gift in the manger reminds us that the joy and truth of Christmas can be recaptured. There is nothing in the world like a baby. The whole silly world stops when a baby is born. God, a baby at Bethlehem…
“The wonder of it all…
“There is nothing as tragic as missing something of great importance when there was no reason to have missed it at all. Such was the experience of those who missed the first Christmas and the experience of those who miss Christmas today. One of those was the innkeeper in Bethlehem. He should not have missed it, because he was so close to it. He missed the Greatest and the Most Important Birth in all of history, right in his own backyard. This child of prophecy, this baby sent to restore and to redeem, born right under his nose. But he was so preoccupied with business, with noise and crowds and himself that he missed the first Christmas in history. He had no room.
“What a tragedy, to miss a chance like that.”
Contact Teddy at teddy@LaTech.edu
Originally Published: December 2009