Many Go to Bethlehem, But —
Do you not suppose that on that holy night long ago, there may have been other shepherds keeping sheep on hillsides who saw no star, heard no voices, took no journey, found no Babe? One can imagine them:
- here are some discussing the price of wool;
- here are others so busy amusing themselves with a game that they have no time to look up.
These did not see. The focus of their eyes, thoughts, and whole selves was downward, not up and out into the vast reaches of God’s eternal skies. One must busy himself or herself with the nearby, the immediate, the everyday problems at times; but to every life there should come times for looking up, letting thoughts reach hopefully toward One greater than he, letting his or her mind stretch forth in wonder.
To certain shepherds, and to certain Wise Men as we are told in the other story, came a new meaning. They saw more than a star. They caught a message. Perhaps other shepherds saw sky-brightness but, not seeking to know its purpose, turned back to their flocks or to sleep. Perhaps other Wise Men saw a light, but uncaring turned back to their books.
“Many people went to Bethlehem that Day so long ago,” says Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, “but did not see the Babe nor guess that all the centuries after would be dated from His coming. It requires open eyes to see Christmas and true hearts to make its meaning real; and every year as at the first, many miss it though they ride to and through Bethlehem.” (based on a reading by Clariece M. Bowman)
If you are lighting an Advent Wreath, as you relight the Advent candles, remember that the first candle reminds us of the hopes of the prophets, and that we must prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child.
Relight the second Advent candle, the Angel’s candle, the candle of love, which represents God’s motivation for coming as the Christ Child and living among us.
Relight the third candle, the shepherds’ candle, the candle of joy. It was those ordinary folks that God chose to be the first to know of the birth of the Christ Child. They were the first ones to respond to the Good News by coming to see Jesus and worship Him. They were the first ones to tell others that the Messiah had arrived – causing great wonder by all who heard their story.
Today, the fourth week of Advent, light the fourth candle – the Bethlehem Candle – to remind you of the peace that seeking people found as they went to Bethlehem to see and experience the Good News that God had shared with them. Let us not miss Bethlehem’s peace this Christmas Season. Let us journey to Bethlehem and discover that touch of peace that Jesus brings this Christmas.
(NOTE: In these readings week two (peace) and week four (love) have been switched. In most Advent readings week two is the Bethlehem candle (peace) and week four is the Angel candle (love).)