Earlier this year, I visited that land, and went to Bethlehem, to the grotto that was the place of our Savior's Nativity. That evening, I sat in the Shepherd's Field outside the town, and looked up at the stars from my spot on the cold, stony ground. I imagined what it must have been like for the shepherds, who were sleeping in the fields with the sheep, because it was lambing season, who heard the choirs of angels announce that the Lamb of God had been born.
Bethlehem is a very different place today than it was when Christ was born. It lies behind a separation wall, dozens of feet tall and topped with barbed wire, guarded by soldiers with guns. It is not a town that Mary and Joseph would recognize.
Two millennia ago, a child was born in that tiny town. His mother gave birth in a dirty, smelly, stable, far away from her home. She wrapped her infant son in rags, and placed Him in a feeding trough to sleep. He was welcomed by shepherds, the homeless men of His day. They were poorly groomed and fit in with the rest of the decor--after all, they had been sleeping in a field night after night. It was some welcoming committee for a young virgin bride.
But her child, miraculously, was the living Son of the living God. He partook of our humanity and thus gave us His Divinity. And in coming in such humility, being born in such low circumstances, the peasant child of a captive people, Christ showed us that no depth is too great for Him to reach us. We are not exempt from His offer of salvation, no matter how low our circumstance, no matter how awful our sin, no matter how great our pain. Christ has shown that He does not mind dirty stables. This year, may we let Him be born again in our hearts. And in doing so, may we also be born again, and become new creatures in Him.