A few months ago, I had the privilege of visiting the real Bethlehem. After a lifetime of singing “O Little Town,” I had conjured up my own mental snapshots of the nativity, complete with a Disney-esque soundtrack.
But the sights and sounds of my journey to the real Bethlehem were quite different. In fact, it was a jarring potpourri of humanity, a sensory overload of the high-definition kind. A very real city, crying out to capture the attention of us pilgrimage-type-tourists. And people...lots of people...loud people...moving as a mob through the beautiful sanctuary of the Church of the Nativity built upon the supposed site of Jesus‘ birth. I pushed together with the crowd through the narrow passageway leading down to the cave-like room. Following the path of textured tapestries and hanging candles, I held my hope of kneeling at the marble-altar-slab where I could touch the “actual” birthplace of Jesus. And if I pushed hard enough and made enough demands, perhaps even I could scare the human mob away for just a few seconds so that someone could snap my sacred-moment-photo in this very holy place.
Yes, it was in THAT crazy moment, trying to plan, capture and grab my holy moment with baby Jesus, that something happened. It was as if some laser-accurate device pointed right at my heart and I became flooded with my own emotion. I heard a loud, internal voice and it was mine - angry and disappointed that my holy moment wasn’t turning out to be so holy. In the real-time chaos, I had a hard time gathering myself back to reality and I really just wanted to take the photo so that I could have this special memory. Now, I was just overwhelmed that this was happening too fast, and so NOT like I had imagined it. And there...while fighting the flood of emotion and the unease of just going through the motions of this once-in-a-lifetime-moment...there it was...
...the other voice.
“This is why I came.” “This is what I was born into.” “It wasn’t what the children of Israel were expecting.” “It wasn’t how Mary and Joseph pictured it either.” It was, in fact, ugly. It was smelly. It was crowded. There was no room. It was painful. They were tired. They were in a crowd, yet they were alone. It was exactly this back then. And it remains exactly this now. “This is what I was born into. And this is why I came. And I am still here.”
The tears came. I couldn’t explain it. Sometimes when God’s voice breaks through, there is only silence. And today, as I look back into that scene, sitting in my comfortable life in Montrose in the midst of yet another Christmas season, I realize how many expectations I put on God - for myself, for my family, and for His church.
“This is why I came.” As I reflect on what it really means to come home for Christmas, I’m praying that God will keep breaking through ALL of my expectations and allow me to experience the real power and truth of His gift.
Fri, December 14, 2012
by Cyndi Roberts filed under