I especially love Thomas Merton's image of our soul as a Bethlehem, our own unique resting place, an intimate little manger prepared for the baby Jesus in a world where culturally, there is no "room in the inn."
He is born in Bethlehem in order that He may be born in us. He is born Son of Man in order that we may be born sons of God, our souls being Bethlehems in which he is born "for us."
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was built in 326 AD by the efforts of Helena, the mother of Constantine, who was a woman on a mission to locate and protect the birthplace of the Savior. Built over the Holy Cave where the baby was born, it still has mosiacs made by Queen Helena (now Saint Helena).
In 614 AD the Persians invaded the Holy Land and destroyed all the churches - except the Church of the Nativity. Why would they spare this one? On the front of the church there is a mosiac depicting three wise men who came from the East to find the child King. When the Persian army saw the mosiac and recognized the traditional Persian clothing on these figures, they spared the church.
Constantine's 4th century mosaic floor rediscovered in 1934 Photo: Wikipedia
In spite of efforts to ignore it's meaning, to leave "no room in the inn" for the Christ Child, Christmas is Christian - essentially, deeply, fully, completely. Holidays (Holy Days), Christmas (Christ's Mass), Santa Claus (St. Nicholas - this web site also has fun children's activities), the giving of gifts as a sign of love, and so much more (Christmas trees? St. Boniface). It's all there - hidden in plain sight.
I have a little Bethlehem that is an imperfect, drafty, crumbling little nest, but one that is preparing to welcome Him as well as I am able.
May your Christmas be joyous and blessed (and holly and jolly too!)!!!!!