Pillar Journal
Vol. 5 No.1 / Advent 2022 - A seasonal journal produced by Pillar Church in Holland, MI to guide us through the Christian year.
Pillar Journal

While they were

Ironically Bethlehem means “house of bread.” Which of course would come true as Jesus would one day say, “I am the bread of life.”

“While they were the time came for her to deliver her child and she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2: 6-7)

I hope you have a chance to gather around the Christmas Day online service sometime today.

I’d like to add one additional reflection that wasn’t offered in the sermon from this same passage, like a Marvel movie if you sit through the credits you get a little more action.

Luke sets the context of this incarnation announcement in terms of time “when the time came” (or as the Christmas sermon tried to emphasize “when the days were fulfilled”) and location, “While they were there…”

“While they were there…” “There,” Luke makes sure we notice, is Bethlehem, the city of David. Bethlehem sits in the shadow of one of Herod’s palaces called Herodium. From a little inn in Bethlehem you could see Herod’s home, maybe 7 miles if you drive the winding roads, half that as the crow flies.

The geographical context forces us to acknowledge the contrast.

Herod building a home for himself, literally a mountain, actually called “Mountain of Little Paradises” sits high above Bethlehem. Gives new meaning to the carol, “O little town of Bethlehem.” Herod’s elaborate palace-mountain mocking that little town. Herod built that palace as an expression of his strength, power, capacity, wealth.

He wanted it to announce his glory.

For Mary and Joseph it must have been like small town farm kids getting dropped off on Wall Street in New York city.

In contrast there is nothing about Bethlehem that draws attention. It’s a small little town without much going on.

Ironically Bethlehem means “house of bread.” Which of course would come true as Jesus would one day say, “I am the bread of life.” Bethlehem generative, Bethlehem blessing, Bethlehem generous, from Bethlehem comes life.

I think Luke wants us to learn a lesson from the geographical context.

In a world of self absorption and self promotion, oriented to the self, Herod and the Herodium fit right in. Christmas though, Bethlehem on the other hand, reorient us. Bethlehem says bless, give, service, love.

Bethlehem says life, nourishment, strength, house of bread, eat at Bethlehem’s table and never be hungry.

“While they were there…”

Merry Christmas,
Rev. Jon Brown

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