“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.” Luke 2:6
On this night-of-nights, the minds of most Christians journey to Bethlehem, a small town (and today a small city) on the outskirts of Jerusalem. For it was there that the great miracle occurred, the virgin birth of “a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11 KJV).
Sometimes, in order to make this journey, we assume we must suspend our human reason. After all, there are Christian scholars who insist that Jesus of Nazareth would have been born not in Bethlehem, but in Nazareth. Others suggest that Mary could not have been a virgin, since things like that don’t happen. Still others wonder about the heavenly angel choir, and the shepherd boys—who seem to be at liberty to leave their sheep in the fields while they go to confirm an audacious story.
It helps to remember that, given the Christian church is now two millennia old, those fathers and mothers who stood nearest to the events of the Advent likely knew as much or more than we know. British historian Simon Gathercole—a critical biblical scholar—once stood on a hill overlooking Bethlehem and observed: “Probably the first Christians believed those events took place just as the Gospels have described them.”
So tonight let us take a deep breath, relax and give reasonable rein to our imaginations. Let us, freely and without reservation, do exactly as the shepherds suggested. Let us “go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us” (Luke 2:15 KJV).
Dr. Steve Pressley is completing his 24th year as associate pastor. During his tenure, he has studied in Jerusalem on four occasions and has visited Bethlehem often.