No, I am not thinking of the cities named Bethlehem in Connecticut, Pennslyvania or Georgia. How far are you from the Bethlehem in your own area?
That’s right – we can say that we are all on a journey to see the newborn King – Jesus, our Savior. This Bethlehem can be our parish church and our homes where we have a nativity scene set-up.
Parish churches can be called “little Bethlehems”. It is there where we unite with other Christians to worship God and see the Creche, or the Nativity. Most Churches are open through the early evening for visitors, for people who want to stop and enter a building consecrated to God! Let us approach the Creche with new eyes, not as before, as we casually looked at it and thought it was nice. Let us look at the Nativity – whether it be plastic, clay, metal or whatever it is made of – and see what took place 2,000 years ago in a small town in ancient Palestine.
First of all, it’s impressive to learn about St. Joseph through John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation, Guardian of the Redeemer. In it he describes Joseph as a just and righteous man who was obedient to the law:
“Journeying to Bethlehem for the census in obedience to the orders of legitimate authority, Joseph fulfilled for the child the significant task of officially inserting the name ‘Jesus, Son of Joseph of Nazareth’ in the registry of the Roman Empire (Jn 1:45). This registration clearly shows that Jesus belongs to the human race as a man among men, a citizen of this world, but also as Savior of the World!” (#9)
Think of their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, which is around 90 miles…they may have traveled in a caravan. Nevertheless, Mary was pregnant. Upon arriving in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary see the hustle and bustle of the town – people arriving from various areas for census, donkeys and camels in the streets, marketplace busy, Joseph searched for a place at the inn, and perhaps several inns.
No room at the inn for them! So thanks to an innkeeper, they are told they can stay at a grotto where animals are kept. Here, in this simple, humble, and most likely quiet place, the Son of God is born.
“Joseph, together with Mary, is a privileged witness to the birth of the Son of God in the world on Christmas night in Bethlehem. Joseph was an eyewitness to this birth, which took place in conditions that humanly speaking, were embarrassing.” (#10)
Imagine the scene! Mary and the Child Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes… Would you be attracted to spend time with this family? The Shepherds did! The Magi did!
The Magi saw the Star which led them to Jerusalem/Bethlehem area. As they arrive in Jerusalem, they inquired about the Birth of the newborn King of the Jews. Then they set out where the Star led them
…until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering … they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:9-11)
Let’s take a look again at what the Magi did upon arriving at the birthplace of Christ; they did him homage first, then presented their gifts. There is an order here that we can learn from. We must always remember to first do homage to Christ.
A Nativity scene, a Creche – as simple as they may be; this symbolic representation of Christ’s birth can help us meditate and contemplate God’s love for each of us, God’s mercy to give us a Redeemer born so poor and yet majestic, because He is the Savior!
Are you closer to Bethlehem now?