The Real Hope of Bethlehem

Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem… While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.  (Luke 2:4,6)

While visiting the Holy Land I was very excited to see Bethlehem—the place where Mary and Joseph traveled, where Mary gave birth to Jesus, where the shepherds came to worship, and where the angels sang that the Savior had been born.

Sadly, nothing about Bethlehem worked for me.  There were too many people pushing and elbowing each other, too many menacing armed guards, and too many vendors selling religious trinkets at outrageous prices.

After quickly seeing the exact place where Jesus was supposed to have been born, I quickly went outside the holy shrine to be by myself. Not knowing what else to do, I read the story of Jesus’ birth.

That night I brought my disappointment about Bethlehem into my prayers.  The word I received completely changed my perspective.

Our spiritual pilgrimage isn’t so much about visiting a town called Bethlehem, but about inviting what happened there into our lives now.  The real hope of Bethlehem isn’t that Jesus was once born there, but that He can be born again in us.  The Holy Places we visit need to become the Holy Places we inhabit.

In our Christmas preparations this year, I encourage us to remember and celebrate the birth of  Jesus long ago, and to look for and celebrate the ongoing birth of  Jesus in our own life and circumstances.  I also encourage us to believe that Bethlehem isn’t just a place we visit, but also a place, a reality, and a hope that comes to live in us.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Where and how do you need the presence of  Jesus to be born again in your life?
  1. The birth of  Jesus—both long ago and now—is always about hope. Just as Mary once delivered Jesus, are you delivering hope to your relationships and circumstances?
  1. Everyone who was in Bethlehem long ago has something to say to us. Like Mary, are you saying “yes” to God?  Like Joseph, are you trusting in the dreams God gives to you?  Like the shepherds, are you giving thanks, that through you, Jesus can become real to others?


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