I don’t know a lot about Bethlehem. I know what I picture in my head when I sing those pretty songs. I know what the Christmas cards look like. In another corner of my brain I have what I have heard from various Christmas Eve services and advent devotionals. Bethlehem was a dirty town notorious for crime and poverty. It was not the place to birth the baby, not the place we would expect to see a Christ child. But there he was, in the middle of a place no one would expect to see him.
In terms of Atlanta, Bethlehem was likely more Old West End than Virginia Highland. Yet that is the neighborhood I most want to avoid, especially at night. Part of this is for my safety, but part of it is because I just don’t want to deal. Selfishly I don’t want to deal with the chaos, the risk, the pain of the situation. I need to be reminded that Bethlehem is where the Christ child chose to show up.
I’ve got some Bethlehem’s in my own life, my own heart. I don’t want to deal with the chaos and pain in some relationships or situations…so I ignore them. I don’t want to deal with the hurt I feel from those places, so I don’t go there.
But I wonder if I am missing the Christ child, just like so many people did who were not going to go to Bethlehem, because they did not want to deal with all of that. I wonder if that isn’t still where the Christ child is….right in the middle of my own personal Bethlehem.