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Every year, thousands of people travel to Bethlehem to be a part of the Christmas crowd. They think, perhaps, that being in the very place where the Christ Child was born will make Him more real to them. Every year, millions of people do not get to travel to Bethlehem. Most of us have never stood with the faithful around the manger-bed. Most of us have never walked where Shepherds and the Wise Men stood. So, what is it that makes Christmas "real" for us? An unknown poet gives us an answer.

"Long ago in Bethlehem, a little Child was born,

Angels sang a joyous hymn that first Christmas morn;

The shepherds came to worship Him; and

Traveling from afar, Wise Men came to Bethlehem

Guided by a wondrous star.

Now, again this Christmas, we seek to worship Him;

We'd like to travel far away to kneel in Bethlehem;

But there's no need to seek Him in a village of Judea;

For Jesus Christ is everywhere, and we can feel Him near;

We need not search far and wide to kneel and worship Him;

It's as we try to do His will that we are in Bethlehem!"

The Shepherds heard the good news about Jesus' birth from an angel choir. They decided to check it out for themselves. "Let's go to Bethlehem and see for ourselves." The Shepherds didn't have to travel very far in order to find the Christ Child.

Some today do not have far to go to find the Holy Child. Many of us find Him in weekly worship, in Bible Study, in our prayer time, in the generous giving of our time and talents and tithes. Christmas, for many of us, is a family reunion -- getting together with "Christ's Family" to celebrate His birthday. We find the Christ in our daily living.

The Wise Men saw the good news about Jesus' birth announced in the stars. They were educators and scientists; they saw God's proclamation in the natural world. The Wise Men, however, traveled long and far before they reached the manger in Bethlehem.

Some, today, are a long way from the Christ Child. Many have grown up in a secular, scientific society -- a society that either negates or ignores God, or any sign of God. God does not enter into their thinking; God is not a part of their daily lives. Yet, a few people do eventually "wise up." The truth suddenly dawns on them that living in the darkness is not the best way to live. They wake up to the fact that God is offering them the gift of "real life"! Like the Wise Men of old, these modern "wise ones" have a long hard journey in order to become close to the Holy Child. To revise one's way of thinking, one's way of looking at life, and one's whole life-style is no easy undertaking!

"We need not search far and wide to kneel and worship Him;

It's as we try to do His will, that we are in fact in Bethlehem!"

Unless we all come, in our hearts, to Bethlehem -- we have no reason to celebrate at this time of the year. Unless we humble ourselves and kneel in adoration and praise before the Holy Child, we have neither true love nor real life. Unless, we give Him the gift of ourselves, we will have nothing good to give to others. Standing, physically, beside the Bethlehem manger does not necessarily make us close to the Christ; our closeness to Christ comes from our heartfelt devotion to Him as we strive to do His will!

It's Christmas! All of us can go to Bethlehem, in person or in spirit!

Let us kneel before the manger and offer the Child the best that we have!

Then, like the Shepherds and the Wise Men, we will go out into the whole world singing and shouting and celebrating Life! Praise be to God! Amen!

Don Kuehle is a retired United Methodist minister who lives in Jackson. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Religion on 01/01/2020

Print Headline: How Far To Bethlehem?

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