How Does One Approach Bethleham?
By Derward Poole
In December 1986, Garth L. Baker considered this question. He said,
“Most people approach it from the north as Mary and Joseph did the first Christmas, for Bethlehem is about six miles south of Jerusalem. One could also approach it from the south or from the west or perhaps from the east---as the magi did.
‘How does one approach Bethlehem?’ Tradition tells us Mary approached it riding on a donkey. Christian Arabs, even today, find camels helpful in approaching the town. For centuries pilgrims approached it on foot. Today, many people approach it riding on a Mercedes-Benz bus.
‘How does one approach Bethlehem?’ Mary and Joseph approached it slowly for Mary was very pregnant. Pilgrims throughout the ages have approached it cautiously, for local inhabitants have always seen in pilgrims the opportunity to make money.
Once again we ask, ‘How does one approach Bethlehem?’ Each of us needs to answer the question. What approach will you use to approach Bethlehem and celebrate Christmas this year.
Perhaps some of us will emphasize the family approach. Christmas for us is a celebration of family. It feels good to be all together, and coming to church at Christmas maintains an important family tradition.
Although there are several ways to approach Bethlehem, there is really only one correct approach to the celebration of the Lord’s birth. This approach was demonstrated by a nun in the cave in Bethlehem which marks the place where the Lord was born. She quietly walked to the silver star which marks the spot of Jesus’ birth, dropped to her knees, and kissed it as an act of adoration and worship.
Yes, to properly approach Bethlehem and Christmas, we must be willing to humble ourselves at the manger, to forget our pride, and to let the love of God reach down from heaven and touch us.
Scripture tells so beautifully, ‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a sSon is given.’ In Jesus, God is saying to each of us, ‘I love you; I forgive you of your sins.’ Because of the manger, the cross, and the empty tomb, all believers can join a pilgrimage that will end at the heavenly Jerusalem. For unto us is given salvation freely, fully, completely.
How do you plan to approach Bethlehem this year? How do you plan to celebrate Christmas? We suggest that each of us spend a few minutes on our knees, humbling ourselves before the Lord as the shepherds once did. The Magi, even though they were kings, fell on their knees when they came to Jesus. All of the saints found God more approachable from their knees. A nun, unconcerned about the stares of others, only recognized one thing that she stood at the place where the Son of God supposedly once lay. Therefore, she positioned herself appropriately for worship.
From your knees, spend a portion of this Christmas thanking God for His gracious gift.
From your knees, confess your sins.
From your knees, invite the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit to deepen your faith.
From your knees, celebrate Christmas.”