I'd love the opportunity to get beyond the typical church program images and see the Bethlehem miracle through the eyes of those who witnessed it first hand. While we don't have an "official eyewitness report," a little investigation and a little imagination gives us a wonderful window into the eternity changing drama of the babe born in a manger. Let's take a look at the story the inn keeper would share:
Bethlehem was in so many ways the typical small town. We had our share of people born, but all too often they would move away from our small community in search of better jobs and a better life. Those of us who remained in Bethlehem would occasionally comment that if everyone who was from here had stayed we could compete with some of the larger cities in Judea. We honestly didn't realize how true that statement was until a decree was issued in Rome that all of Judea was to return to their city of origin for a "tax census." Our little town was quickly overwhelmed with family, friends, and former neighbors arriving in anticipation of "counting day."
My family and I manage Bethlehem's one Inn. I love working in hospitality and take great pride in our inn. It might not be all that one would find in the larger inns in Jerusalem, but it has been a part of my family for several generations, and offers exceptional lodging for our small town. I typically look forward to serving our guests. This particular time was, unfortunately, not typical. The Roman contingent arrived early in preparation of the census and overwhelmed our quaint little inn. They were arrogant and demanding, constantly complaining about their assignment in Bethlehem, commenting that they wanted to finish quickly and return to the city.
Joseph & Mary arrived at the inn late in the day. So many of the travelers were irritable from their journey and frustrated with the lack of accommodations in Bethlehem, but this young couple from Nazareth were gracious in their request for lodging, in spite of the fact that Mary was very much with child. They had a grace about them that made it easy for me to make the extra effort to assure they had a place to rest. The inn was filled beyond capacity with unruly Romans, but the stable was available and at least it would provide some shelter and a semisoft straw bed.
I helped the young Nazarenes get settled and returned to the inn to respond to any remaining requests, or demands from the Romans before settling down for a much deserved rest. It was not long before news came that the mother to be was about to become the mother and child. I sent my wife to offer assistance in the stable while I finished up with our other guests. By the time I arrived beside the manger the baby was already there, wrapped in swaddling clothes and sleeping peacefully in the feed trough.
News of the birth spread quickly, even the shepherds of the temple flock came to see the baby! The shepherds told of an angelic host who told them the good news of the child. As the shepherds told the story, Joseph began to wipe away tears. He then told us of his conversation with a messenger from Heaven, confirming the Shepherd's story.
I must confess it was initially difficult to believe that the Son of God could be born in my stable. Surely the coming of the messiah would be more dramatic, accompanied by a worldwide proclamation. Why would God choose to have his Son born in a simple stable in a small town sharing the news with commoners? The more I pondered the more I realized that God chose this time and place for the arrival of the Messiah to share the reality that His love includes all of us. An uncommon birth in a common place to connect with even the most common of people. The simplicity of it all spoke of the magnitude of God's wisdom, and filled me with a sense of value, knowing that God thought enough of me to include me in His plan.
Our little stable was transformed that night, through the birth of a baby, named Jesus. The presence of God, the worship of the shepherds, and the hope that the Messiah brought offered common folks like us a moment with the King.
In fact, the Bethlehem miracle is evidence to us all of God's great love and the lengths to which our Saviour will go to connect with us. Jesus birth reminds us of the great privilege that is ours to each day have a moment with the King!
May the miracle of Christmas mark your days this Advent season!