It’s Back (?)

We had the privilege of visiting Bethlehem a few years ago.  On our previous trips to Israel we’d been visiting missionary friends who lived in Nazareth.  They encouraged us to skip seeing it as the Catholics and ensuing tourists had completely over-built and over-glamorized the spot.

I guess they were right, but I was also glad I got to finally see it.  Yes, there’s a beautiful cathedral standing above the place where Jesus was born, but I have to thank the original Catholics, in the form of Helen. She was the mother of Constantine, the Roman Emperor, and when he became a Christian, he sent her to the Holy Land to ‘suss out’ all the holy sites before people completely forgot.  After all, it was already 300AD!  She travelled from village to village, meeting believers and listening to oral history, putting her mark (that of the Roman Empire) wherever she could.  Because of that, there is reason to believe that the CAVES under the cathedral, (that hadn’t yet been built) were places where the locals usually kept their stock. And these places would have made great alternatives when there was “no room in the inn”.

Actually, we were told on this latest trip that if you look into the history of the area, most stables were in fact caves or rocky enclosures.  It certainly makes sense when you realize that stones were the most common materials for building, much more than wood. Also another charm point of a cave or hollow is that it would be relatively cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

At any rate, as we climbed down into the cave under the cathedral, we could ‘picture’ that this would be a perfect, private and sheltered place to spend the night.  It would have had plenty of aroma, that’s for sure, but also safe and secluded. What a beautiful place for the Birth of a King!

I’ll never forget our first Christmas in Japan.  We’d been there 6 months and our son Trevor, aged 4, was already comfortable in Japanese, as he had been going to pre-school. We, on the other hand were wondering if we could ever even buy a loaf of bread…. in a bakery!  The adult brain is pretty well hardened, whereas kids like Trevor just started playing, not worrying about verbs and conjunctions and proper sentence structure.

Anyway, he announced one day that he was going be the leader of the Shepherd gang for the Christmas Pageant. And, he added with excitement, he had a speaking part!  I had a moment of horror at the entire community mocking my strange foreign child, but he did not disappoint.  On cue, he jumped up and said in a loud voice, “Sa!  Betsu-la-hamu iko!”  (“So! Let’s go to Bethlehem!”).  What a proud mom, what a great command!

Let’s GET TO BETHLEHEM!!

I’m sure you’ve heard on the news that somewhere in the world, tomorrow, the Winter Solstice, that the “star” the wise men followed as it came to rest over the Baby Jesus, will be making a rare appearance.  According to popular thought, it’s the alignment of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars. I’ve done a little research and according to Google, the last recorded and visible alignment like this was in 1226 and the next one we might look forward to seeing is in 2288!  Might be worth dusting off the telescope.

At that time, back in the Middle East, the world wasn’t a very good place to be. There was plenty of political unrest and associated violence. Most people lived in poverty. Herod was stalking the wise men. The world at that time definitely needed a Savior!

And how have things changed since then? I think most of us might shudder at the thought of repeating 2020, and might be looking with a bit of fear and trepidation at 2021.

But then we’re reminded……… there IS a Savior!  He was born in Bethlehem for You and Me.

Mic. 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times.”

Tony and I would like to wish you the most awe inspired Christmas ever. For us, there are a few items on the not so distant horizon that make us believe it’s going to be great year. We’ll tell you all about it … next time!

Marsha

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