Where is Bethlehem?

We were singing “Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem” when a thought occurred to me. Bethlehem means more than the places on earth with that name. Sure, the most important one was a dusty little hamlet six miles away from Jerusalem. After the events in that city, it has become a sacred place for many Christians.

Those that make a pilgrimage to Bethlehem seem to have there spirits renewed. In a sense, this makes it a spiritual place as well as a physical one. When you stand in the presence of any sacred site, it’s hard not to feel the power of the Holy Spirit. He speaks to those who are there to listen.

While these are both important, I think the number one location of Bethlehem should be in us. Not a worship of the city or of the place we think Christ was born. That sort of thing leads us away from God. Bethlehem should be inside of us because of Christ.

One of the biggest problems we Christians face is keeping Christ in the manger. He’s so much more manageable there. He’s a cute little baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and making all the messes an infant makes.

This feeling is compounded by the fact that the children always participate in Christmas programs. Today, our preschoolers sang Christmas songs. Next Sunday will be the annual Christmas Pageant, presented by the Sunday School. This makes Christmas much more real.

What about Easter? Have you ever heard of an annual Easter Pageant put on by children? Some churches do offer services during Lent, but that starts in the middle of winter. It’s not always easy to get out and attend.

Lent is also such a negative time when properly observed. We are preparing our hearts for something far greater than Jesus’ birth, and it is a hard thing to think about. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to think of myself as a sinner, but I am. It’s hard to admit my faults, and the purpose of Lent is to remind me of them and help me overcome them. No wonder it’s so easy to keep Jesus in a manger.

While we keep Bethlehem in our hearts, we need to remember that Jerusalem *is* only six miles away. Jerusalem is where Christ was tried, scourged and hung on a cross for our sins. While we shouldn’t miss out on the birth of Christ, it’s time to let Him out of the manger. Let Him be the Savior He was born to be…all year.

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