It was born in Bethlehem.
It was born in darkness and steeped in the sounds and smells of a few sheep and donkeys used for long travels over dusty roads. It was born in a little town with only lowly shepherds to celebrate.
It was born in the cold and dank and dirt of a small, cramped cave that served as a stable.
It was born in need and brokenness and desperation.
It was born in love and borne by love there in Bethlehem.
Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem in order to be counted. There, in Bethlehem, after a lengthy and dangerous trip through arduous hills and rainy weather, the two at last found rest. Not necessarily comfort, but rest. And there, they met Jesus.
There, in Bethlehem, they were counted as blessed.
So, too, the shepherds encountered Jesus for the first time in Bethlehem.
So, too, the shepherds endured cold and dark and dirt and discomfort, and there, in the midst of that overcrowded desolation, they met Jesus.
We tend to think of Christmas as the words of favorite songs: cozy and bright; all is calm; tis the season to be jolly; oh, Christmas tree, how beautiful and bright; dreams of white Christmases and sleigh bells jingling.
We strive to make Christmas match scenes on the Christmas cards we may (or hope to) send: warm fireplaces; stockings hung with care; beautifully decorated trees and perfectly wrapped gifts; joyous family gatherings over delicious dinners.
But, the reality is that Christmas is Bethlehem and it can be messy and overcrowded and not at all comfortable. And yet, still, we can find rest and we can find Jesus.
And the even deeper truth is all of that is okay. Christmas was born of our need, our brokenness, our desperation and our separation. Christmas was born in Bethlehem so that we might find rest. Not necessarily comfort, but rest.
This year, I pray that you find rest.
This year, I pray that you embrace your Bethlehem, and there, in your dark, messy, crowded Bethlehem you meet Jesus and find peace. And I pray that you savor the rest of Christmas.