Since Sunday Dec 30 is the reading for the Holy Innocents, I’m sharing this recollection from an old sermon.
Probably the most moving event, for me, while I was in the Holy Land was my visit to the Church of the Nativity. We found out the night before I left that I was pregnant with The Entertainer. So as I stood in the place where they say Jesus was born and then laid in a manger, I was filled with awe and wonder. To be pregnant and stand in that holy and sacred place was incredible.
Like every other tourist that visits the Church of the Nativity with a tour group, a few brief moments at the church were followed by a visit to a souvenir shop. After a long time at the souvenir shop, we finally boarded the bus to return to Jerusalem. We noticed that the driver, a Palestinian, was quite agitated and as he talked to our tour guide. The Israeli tour guide also became agitated. Later, we discovered that the driver had heard on the radio the first report of the bombing of a major intersection in Jerusalem. It was March of 1996. Just days before we were scheduled to leave the United States, the bombings of the red city buses had begun. So as we left, we knew that there was some danger. What we didn’t know was that we would travel through that intersection that was bombed just hours after we had passed through safely. We left Bethlehem on the way to Jerusalem not knowing why our driver and tour guide were upset because neither of them would tell us and none of us understood the radio. But the TVs in our rooms quickly filled us in on the details of the bombing that had happened only miles from us.
This year Bethlehem was on the news because there were more tourists and less violence. Someone said (and I had a similar experience), “When one is in Bethlehem, it is not hard to think “What a place for God to pick to be born in.” What a place! The dust, the misery, the ugliness. Bethlehem.”
But the glorious truth of the incarnation is just that. God comes to where we are; into the midst of evil; into the very spot where we are; into the struggles and the pain and the fear and the suffering. God comes to us where we are, in Bethlehem, or Boston, or Bangkok, or Brazil, or your home county. Emmanuel. God with us. God with us.