But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
and he shall be the one of peace
We have such a romanticized idea of Bethlehem. So many paintings, videos, etc depicting a quiet hamlet in the ancient world and Mary and Joseph bedding down in a warmly lit stable with happy animals all around. I am sure it was nothing like that in reality. I am sure it was dusty, loud (With all the people there for the census), uncomfortable (and smelly) in the stable/cave, and generally not a trip that Mary and Joseph would plan to do again if they could choose otherwise. Yet into that place, the Savior was born. Into the dusty and imperfect reality of life, Jesus came.
Voskamp moves toward this as she talks about the Christmas tree lights that are up in places like “Americus, Kansas, and Quitman, Arkansas, and Mud Lake, Idaho.” Earlier she wrote, “You there, with your lights strung up and down like sequins that have seen better days. With your ragamuffin kids and paint-chipped Christmas ornaments from 1982, your scarlet poinsettias in the front window, in the fading light of the front room.” Into the reality of life, Christ came. Not in a place of perfection and “everything in its place” but instead to real-life.
I took this picture out the backdoor of a shelter in downtown Cincinnati. What I see here is a place not unlike what Bethlehem might have been back in the day. Its far from a perfect perspective and depicting a perfect, manicured place. But the Savior came here to downtown Cincinnati, to a stable in Bethlehem, and everywhere to the ends of the earth as Micah speaks of.