Bethlehem Bound

Adoration of the ShepherdsI recently read that the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is being restored after 600 years, and was reminded of this column from a few years ago. Merry Christmas to you, wherever the Lord leads you!

Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened…Luke 2:15

How often we look back on the way God orchestrated something in our lives, something so totally opposite from what we had planned, and say, “But, of course, it had to be just as it was.” Such was the case when Mary and Joseph traveled over rugged trails into Judea to the little town of Bethlehem. Certainly Mary didn’t expect to be having a baby so soon, and definitely not so far from home. But the journey fulfilled prophecy, for it is recorded in Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.”

Surely the shepherds didn’t expect to be visited by a heavenly host that starry night either–nor to travel to Bethlehem to worship a newborn King.

As Christmas comes this year, the question on our hearts needs to be “Where are you leading me, Lord? What plans do you have for me that I don’t even know about yet?” When we ask those questions sincerely, we can celebrate Christmas Bethlehem bound, ready to go where He leads and ready to humbly worship at the feet of our Lord.

My husband and I were privileged to travel to Israel in 1998 and Bethlehem was one of the stops along our way. We were somewhat surprised by what we found there—not the idyllic scene portrayed on greeting cards, but an enormous, ornate Greek Orthodox church, the Church of the Nativity, built over the spot where Jesus was said to have been born. Pilgrims to Bethlehem step down cavernous steps inside this church into a small enclosure made even closer by the many tapestries and incense-burning lamps hanging all around. In turn, each traveler gets down on hands and knees to peer into a grotto of sorts where a 14-pointed star is embedded in the floor to “mark the spot” where Jesus was born. Jewish tradition ensures this spot is accurate, but it’s now so different from what it once was—and from what we expected.

At another stop along our tour, we saw a typical manger from the time of Jesus’ birth. It was not a wooden structure filled with hay, but a chiseled stone watering trough. Thinking of these things now, I realize there’s no better time than Christmas to set aside all our preconceived ideas. Rather than celebrate just as we always have, let’s open our hearts to the plans the Lord has for us this Christmas. Like Mary and Joseph may we be, in heart and spirit, Bethlehem bound.

(Painting shown is “Adoration of the Shepherds” by Rembrandt.)


  1. Jimmie Bohannon says:

    Merry Christmas, sweet Friend! Thanks for the memory of Bethlehem!

  2. Merry Christmas, God bless your family and you, my dear cousin Nancy.

  3. I remembered my visit to Bethlehem. What a wonderful eand happy memory of Bethlehem I have, a ! A peace
    ful little town, I enjoyed this place so much.

  4. A stone watering trough for the Baby Jesus? That’s definitely a new detail.
    Thank you for this reminder of new perspectives and being open to God’s plans for us, Nancy.
    Today I’m baking cake for tomorrow night’s dessert. We light the candle on Baby Jesus’ birthday cake, hold hands and sing “Happy Birthday.” We’ve done this since Grace was 16 mos. old and Gannon 5 mos. Then, the adults did most of the singing, now the kids are in charge.
    Merry Christmas to you and yours, Nancy.

  5. Betty Van Liere says:

    Thank you once again, Nancy, for an inspiring write-up. I, too, was privileged to visit Israel and the memories are especially dear to me.
    Laugh. I Dare You is due to be published in 2014–if I ever get six pages finished for Cindy. One of the devotions centers on “The Echoes of One Moment,” and refers to the reverence and awe our group felt as we entered a small church, The Church of the Well, where Mary may have met the angel who told her she was to be the mother of Jesus. Many of us were not singers, but all of us, with full hearts, sang “How Great Thou Art” and “In Moments Like These.” Those songs live in my heart.
    Your words, “Where are you leading me, Lord? What plans do you have for me that I don’t even know about yet?” whirl through my head as I see 2014 only a couple weeks away. Hafta’ wait and see I guess. God is always full of surprises.
    Have a God-blessed Christmas, Nancy. Betty

    • Yes He is full of surprises! But we can always trust He has our best interest at heart, as I know you know. Thanks for commenting, Betty. I’m still waiting for final steps on my devotional. Hopefully 2014 will see us both holding new books…God willing! Merry Christmas!

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