|"Journey to Bethlehm" by Joseph Brickey (click here)|
The Nativity begins with the decree that the people of Palestine must participate in an enrollment or census to facilitate the assessing and collecting of taxes. For Joseph and his young bride that meant they must travel about ninety miles south to the town of Bethlehem which would have been at least a five day journey—especially for a pregnant woman. If they traveled the most likely route this meant they went through Jericho (the lowest point on the earth) and then up the hill country to Bethlehem, a hike of 3,500 feet. Having given birth to ten children myself, the thought of Mary making such a journey shortly before giving birth amazes me.
But it was important that she go to Bethlehem. It was well known at the time of the Savior’s birth that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. When the wise men traveled to Jerusalem and inquired of Herod about the new king, Herod assembled his wise men and leaders and “demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel” (Matthew 2:4-6).
|The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem today|
But it is not just prophecy that makes the place significant. The word bethlehem means “house of bread.” I will never forget the amazing feelings that surged through me the first time it struck me that the Bread of Life was born in the House of Bread. Ever since then I can’t think about those words or hear the hymn “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” without feeling the swelling warmth within me once again especially when I hear the last phrase of the hymn, “The dear Christ enters in.”
Physically the Bread of Life was born in the House of Bread. Spiritually the Bread of Life is born again in everyone who chooses to partake of His teachings.