Jesus was born in a specific place, a Judean sheep-town that can be located on a map and visited in person. The good news of God’s love in Jesus Christ therefore is not a kind of “once upon a time in a Disney movie” story, but the account of real people in real places.
In Hebrew, the name Bethlehem means “a house of bread.” Think about it. The village where Jesus was born was named after a human need as basic as eating.
Perhaps this is God’s way of telling us that our Christmastime celebration is not a kind of “escape from reality,” a few days or weeks of fairy-tale spending and pretending out of the year, but that the coming of Christ (both at Bethlehem and into our lives) signals a real concern given by God to meet our real, most basic human needs—new life, a second chance, forgiveness, mercy, unconditional love, grace, faith, generosity, love thy neighbor, joyfulness, humility, acceptance, courage, devotion, self-control, justice, kindness, moderation, stewardship, patience, hospitality, commitment, discernment, integrity, virtue, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, propitiation, justification, reconciliation, and salvation.
How much of your Christmas celebration is merely redundant and unnecessary, and how much is truly essential, truly spiritual?
O’ little town of Bethlehem…
The everlasting light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.