How I wish I could have been there, in Beth­le­hem, that first silent night

The Standard Journal - - COMMENTARY - Guest Colum­nist You can reach Dick Yar­brough at dick@ dick­; at P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, Ga. 31139 or on Face­book at www.face­­yarb By Dick Yar­brough

These words are ded­i­cated to the mem­ory of my friend, the late Otis Brumby Jr., pub­lisher of the Ma­ri­etta Daily Jour­nal. He en­cour­aged me to run this col­umn each Christ­mas sea­son. It is also ded­i­cated to those who be­lieve. I wish I had been there. In Beth­le­hem. I wish I had wit­nessed the birth of the baby Je­sus in a lowly manger. Was it re­ally as cold that night as it is some­times de­picted on our Christ­mas cards, or was it as cool and com­fort­able an even­ing as it is pre­dicted to be this year in Beth­le­hem?

I wish I could have seen first­hand Mary’s face as she looked lov­ingly at her new baby, and that I could have asked her if she knew her life and ours would be changed for­ever.

Did she re­ally un­der­stand what God had wrought? And Joseph. Poor sim­ple Joseph. What must have been go­ing through his mind? He was in Beth­le­hem only be­cause he was re­quired to reg­is­ter for the cen­sus in his home­town as de­creed by Cae­sar Au­gus­tus. Did he have any idea what he had got­ten him­self into?

I wish I could have seen the star that guided peo­ple to the manger. Like every­one else that even­ing, I am sure I would have been stu­pe­fied and afraid, even though the an­gels said not to be. I think even hear­ing from a bunch of an­gels would have scared me.

I wish I could have ob­served the shep­herds as they came pour­ing into Beth­le­hem from the hills where they had been tend­ing their flocks, headed for the manger to see for them­selves what the an­gels had pro­claimed to them.

What did this rough-hewn bunch think when they saw that lit­tle baby? The Bi­ble says they went back and told others what they had seen. I wish I could have heard what they said about what they had seen. Shep­herd­ing was prob­a­bly never the same for them af­ter that night.

I wish I could have been there when the Magi ar­rived. That must have been quite an event in Beth­le­hem to have three kings from the East ap­pear to pay homage to the lit­tle baby and to present him with gifts of gold and myrrh and frank­in­cense.

Why those three par­tic­u­lar gifts? I am sure the gold had some prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion and frank­in­cense prob­a­bly helped sweeten the air around the sta­bles, but myrrh?

Did any­one see the irony in the fact that myrrh would be one of the spices that would be of­fered to Je­sus at his cru­ci­fix­ion to dull the pain of the nails and the crown of thorns and later would be used to pre­pare his body for burial?

Was this a sign of things to come? God’s ways are mys­te­ri­ous.

I wish I could have talked to the other peo­ple in Beth­le­hem who were there to reg­is­ter for the cen­sus along with Mary and Joseph and to try and ex­plain to them that a child had been born in their midst that would change the course of his­tory. I am not sure they would have be­lieved me if I could have even got­ten them to lis­ten. Any­way, they prob­a­bly had no in­ter­est in what was go­ing on in town. They just wanted to get out of Beth­le­hem and back home so that they could get on with their rou­tine lives.

I wish I could fig­ure out what has hap­pened to us Chris­tians since that fate­ful night in Beth­le­hem some 2,000 years ago.

Where is our awe? Where is our rev­er­ence? Where is our wonderment?

Why have we al­lowed the birth of our Sav­ior to morph into cock­tail par­ties, Black Fri­days, Cy­ber Mon­days and gaudy light dis­plays? Why did we per­mit this sa­cred event to be high-jacked by re­tail­ers who make money off of our holy day, but don’t al­low the term “Merry Christ­mas” to be ut­tered, printed or ac­knowl­edged lest some­one be of­fended? And we go along with it as though it doesn’t mat­ter? Shame on us.

This is why I wish I had been there. I wish we all had been there to­gether. In Beth­le­hem. With Mary and Joseph and the babe. With the shep­herds. With the an­gels. With the Magi.

Maybe if we had wit­nessed these things for our­selves, then we would un­der­stand how spe­cial Christ­mas re­ally is.

Dick Yar­brough

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