“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.”
Bethlehem in Judea is a very old place. To Jews it was known as the home of Ruth and the birthplace of David, Israel’s greatest king. By the time Mary and Joseph arrived there, Bethlehem had been inhabited for at least 1,300 years, and probably longer. The old town had witnessed many births over those years, but nothing like the one it hosted that night. The Messiah, God’s anointed one, came into this very old place embodying something new: new life.
God is very good at that sort of thing. God takes what seems old and surprises us with something new. New wine gets new wineskins. The old is made new again—renewed. The prophet Isaiah spoke about God’s renewal project with these words:
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)
Rivers in the desert, bringing new life to what is lifeless.
These words bring us comfort because they are attached to the Christmas story. They are well known to us at this time of year. Like a favorite sweater that wraps us in its warmth, the familiar contours of the Christmas story warms our hearts once again. We’ve been down this road before. But there are still new sights to see.
There is always more with God. Even in the old, old stories, God brings us new experiences of the holy. And so it was, long ago, as a star hung over old Bethlehem that night, God entered the world in a new and thoroughly unexpected way.
“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).
God became flesh so that we who are flesh might have the gift of new life. A river of living water in the desert of our lives, brining life to the lifeless. For love, God’s love, came down at Christmas. And it is still with us.
As we approach Christmas this year, let us make room in our hearts for the love of God that comes into the world and is in the world. This gift is old as time itself, yet it comes to us new every year.
Watch for the ways God comes to renew your spirit this Christmas. Take time to listen. Take time to pray. Take time to open your heart to the wonders God has in store for you. You won’t be disappointed.