The Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Photo: Wikipedia

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."
Thomas Merton

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.

Today, the church celebrates Christmas for both Western and Eastern rites, according to their calendars - on December 25th for the Roman Catholic Church and on January 7 for the Orthodox 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!)!!!!!



Edited to add something excellent about the meaning of Christmas: This essay by Amy Welborn.


Unknown said...

Wonderful reminders that God is everywhere, even if we don't take time to look for Him.

Have a blessed Christmas!

The Urban Cowboy said...

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas!

Rachel said...

Have an amazingly beautiful and blessed Christmas, Amy.

thank you for the information and the reminders :-) xoxo

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

Merry (belated) Christmas to you and yours!

I just noticed the snow and the Santa hat in your blog header...love it!

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