LOVE: THE BETHLEHEM CANDLE
Light the first candle, the Prophecy Candle.
Luke 2:1-7 (NRSV)
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, 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.
Today we begin our week of Love- Places of the Heart with the lighting of the Bethlehem Candle. As we recall, Bethlehem was first named in Micah (5:2-4) as the future birthplace of a shepherd and leader for Israel. We are familiar with the nativity story of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem for the census and Mary then giving birth to Jesus there.
Several biblical resources question whether Jesus was actually born in Bethlehem of Judea, since it was so far from Nazareth (there was another city of Bethlehem in Galilee, which would have been more feasible). Bethlehem may have been used by the gospel writers because of Micah’s prophecy, because Bethlehem is known as the City of David, and also because Bethlehem means “House of Bread.”
Wherever Jesus was born, I love the symbolism of his story, of his very humble and meager birth- in an unexpected place- among lowly people- in difficult circumstances. Bethlehem symbolizes the true humility and generous love of God, coming to us in modest ways. Whether or not Jesus was born in Bethlehem is not important. What is important is that he was born as a human baby, as a gift of God’s LOVE, and our lives are forever blessed.
We will be looking at other Places of the Heart in Jesus’ life this week. Our own places of the heart have become so, not because of their physical structures or locations, but because of what we have experienced in those places. Our places of the heart are formed from the moments, relationships, inspiration and joy that have taken place; the feelings we associate with certain spaces in our lives. Our places of the heart are all of the places where love has come.
Light the second candle, the Bethlehem Candle.
Today we especially think of Bethlehem as a meaningful Place of the Heart where God’s Love came to live with us. Because of Jesus, we know that Love is everywhere. Wherever we are, we can build an altar of love. For we know that the presence of God is there with us, given to us in Jesus as a human being, a baby born in love for us all.
PLACES OF THE HEART
Your presence pervades and permeates all times and places.
Today I invite your presence to saturate my heart.
Fill my soul with love, enter into all my spaces
That I may know and share your graces
And never be apart.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for Bethlehem and all of the places where we sense your loving presence with us. Help us to feel your love and to share your love- everywhere. Amen.