Memories of Bethlehem This Christmas
As this Christmas season approaches, I have 22 incredibly dear friends, memories of the Middle East, a completely new perspective of Jesus’s life and birth, a sincere respect for those who live in a tumultuous country fraught with war, and a much stronger faith in God.
And no, I’m not trying to replicate the 12 days of Christmas, yet I have been careening toward this season with a build-up of enthusiasm. Embarrassing as this is to admit, this year is unusual. I normally have lists for every sort of gift exchange, party, project, and tradition. This year is a low-key Christmas with fewer plans and expectations simply due to the season of my life. The grown children are traveling and elsewhere, so we have a day of solitude ahead – day of reflection.
Maybe another thing different for me this year is the detailed memories of The Holy Land.
Prior to my trip, the Bible held words to treasure and stories to imagine. Now, I can visualize the cave where Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The picture above is the Church of the Nativity where a gorgeous worship center spreads over the rocky formations that housed our infant savior, who came in the most humble of locations.
Just for the record, giving birth for the first time in a musty cave in a foreign land with only your husband to help you is quite a feat alone.
But Jesus and the young couple were resilient and open to God’s leading, which allows us to have an ideal example of what I consider the first stepfather or adoptive father described in the scriptures and a mother as devoted as young Mary. This year I can not only accept the revelation of that good news, but I can feel it deep in my heart. I’ve seen the archeological sites that reflect the verses we read, and the prophesies fulfilled. I can also assure you that the journey to Bethlehem was no limo ride for Mary as the topography is steep and rocky with miles in between the areas they journeyed.
And so, I plan to reflect on Christmas day with sincere reverence for the reason we celebrate. The first and greatest gift to remember on this day is our savior and the promise that was carried out in its entirety. Despite the turmoil and unrest around us, there was every bit as much suffering when Jesus came to Earth, and we have a faithful guide now to support us going forward.
Just as the disciples grieved the loss of Jesus as an earthly companion after the cross, we may have moments of grief following losses this year or during this season. Jesus himself grieved loss. I encourage you to allow the tide of emotion to sweep through in your reflection as I promise I will in memory of loved ones who’ve gone ahead, but along with those thoughts, we have the joy of the gift and the promise.
We can have peace, love, and joy in our hearts this season. And that’s what it’s all about.