O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie;
above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light;
the hopes and fears of all the years are born in thee tonight.
It was several years ago that Cindi and I stood in Bethlehem. We walked in the plaza and descended into the caves where the stables of Jesus’ day were located. We saw the marker which denotes the traditional place of Jesus’ birth. We lifted our voices in prayer and song to thank and praise God. Although I have been part of the Christian community since childhood, something about being in that place profoundly changed me. The stories I had heard took on flesh and shape. I realized that I was in the place where God chose to be born among us. I felt anew the wondrous love of God that God expressed by choosing to come among us as a baby, born in the stable of a small-town inn. And I understood that the hopes and fears of all the years truly were born in Bethlehem.
After the year we have had, we need a deeper sense of the true miracle of Christmas. We need to live the Truth that God is with us, among us, and for us in the birth of the Christ-child. We need to renew the hope that in and through this baby, we discover anew we are loved, our lives are transformed, and we receive new life as a gift. My hope is that this Christmas will find us joining our brothers and sisters around the world in hastening to see “this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15) May our prayer echo that of the hymn:
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
In the joy of Emmanuel (God with us),