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Summary: This series approaches the Christmas Story by examining the lives of those present from a very historical perspective. This is week four focusing on the little town of Bethlehem.

Luke 2:1-7 NIV

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

“Eye Witness News 4: O Little Town of Bethlehem”

Silent Night

Silent night, holy night,

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon virgin mother and child.

Holy infant so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace.

Sleep in heavenly peace.

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by

Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

Isn’t that exactly what we see in our minds when we think about that manger scene some 2,000 years ago? A picturesque view of a manger… enshrouded in the light of a shining star. Animals… quietly adoring the newborn king. The entire town of Bethlehem in a quiet slumber as the stillness is broken… ever so slightly… with the cry of a newborn baby. Beautiful! As if choreographed especially for Christmas cards.

We decorate our homes with these perfect little manger scenes… we sing songs about how serene and peaceful it all must have been. Yet this image we have in our minds… tells so little about what really happened that night so long ago. What IF… what if we could go back… and see Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus just as they were. See them in THAT moment… sit with them in that dirty room… surrounded by dirty and smelly animals, and live their lives if just for that one moment. What IF… this story about Jesus’ birth were not some event 2,000 years ago… but BREAKING NEWS for all of us today? What if?

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At least the very first line of that famous Christmas song helps to paint the picture. O little town of Bethlehem indeed. Five miles south of the greater city of Jerusalem… this little village had at MOST only 1,000 people. It is located on the border between the mountains and the wilderness making it possible for its people to capitalize on the benefits from both environments. The fertile mountain valleys and hillsides received adequate rainfall to provide valuable cropland for farmers, while the wilderness nearby provided pastures for shepherds to tend their flock. It is everything we would expect from a city that raised the shepherd king David. It was a true farming community, with everything that entails.

They would think nothing of bringing their animals into the family room during the night to provide safety during the summer, and warmth during the winter. They lived their lives around farming and didn’t mind being a little dirty because of it. So imagine… imagine what it must have been like… for this little farming town… population 1,000… the “City of David” to welcome all of David’s ancestors into it’s walls for a census. Mason workers, fishermen, priests, tax collectors, government officers, the high and mighty of the Jewish society, even a carpenter and his bride… and lets not forget the Roman soldiers with all of their fanfare… some 20,000 people they estimate… descending upon this little town of Bethlehem. 20,000… crammed into the living spaces designed for only 1,000. Add sheep, cows, roosters, and who knows how many other animals hanging out in the living room… and now imagine singing silent night, holy night.

It’s like the old parable of the man who went to a wise man and said, “I am very unsatisfied with my living conditions. My house is tiny and my procession are so many! I can not afford a larger home, what should I do?” The wiseman said to him, “Do you have a mother-in-law?” “Who doesn’t?” the man replied. “Invite her to live with you for one month and I will tell you the secret to receiving more room than you will know what to do with.” So he did, and after the month was up, he went back to the wiseman and said, “I can not take it another second. My mother-in-law is driving me nuts! If I have to live with her for one more moment I will scream.” “Good,” said the wiseman, “now kick her out of your home.” The man did as he was told, and upon doing so… found his house to be very large and accommodating. He never complained again.

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