The Lessons of Bethlehem

Gabriel Garnica - Bethlehem2


Amid this selfie society, so immersed in our preoccupation, nay, our obsession with our personal agendas, it might be refreshing to consider the lessons found in Bethlehem so long ago.

To begin with, we should ask ourselves if we ever look “up” toward Heaven with enough frequency to even catch a glimpse of the star which beckons us toward Christ. Are we so transfixed in the secular, the mundane, the everyday, the here and now that we lose sight of Christ’s signs in our lives, reaching out to invite us toward His infinite love, mercy, compassion, and tenderness? I regret to bet that we have each, at one time or another, lost more opportunities to approach Christ than we have seized. Forget about stopping to smell the roses. Try stopping to glimpse, to feel, to inhale, Christ’s Presence in our lives and His call to action.

Likewise, have we so filled our lives with stuff, useless entertainment, amusement, and other superficial trash that we truly have no room at the inn of our soul for both Our Lord and the example of His Holy Family shivering in the cold? Do we even bother to hear the knock on our door, much less open that door, when Christ beckons us amid a world increasingly cold to His message? Are we so determined to warm ourselves and our toys in the glow of this world’s standards that we leave Our Lord out in the cold and darkness, away from our sight, both externally and internally?

It is time to reach for and open that door, and make that room for those Holy Visitors who bring the real light, the real warmth to our cozy, flimsy, and earthly abodes.

Have we considered the silent holiness of humility? Are we more prone to boast, to affirm our unique greatness, to flash our possessions and accomplishments, rather than shift the focus to others? Consider that the Savior of The World chose to be born in cold poverty amid barn animals, to be rejected even before He was born, to be subjected to every humiliation as quickly as possible into His earthly mission. Now consider how much we dread even the most marginal slight, the most minimal misstep toward our person. Do we value ourselves so highly above others that when faced with the mistreatment that we must all face at one time or another, we cry bloody murder and demand exacting compensation and justice? How can we, defective creatures that we are, demand such payment when the most innocent and perfect King neither demanded it nor received it? Clearly, it is time for us to get a Bethlehem reality check.

Consider that the angels announced Our Lord’s birth, not to royalty, or the wealthy, or the prestigious, but to quite the contrary, announced His arrival to poor peasants of little earthly importance, where such an announcement would most likely find welcoming ears and hearts. Do we relish associating ourselves with power, prestige, and money above surrounding ourselves with the powerless, voiceless, marginalized, and poor? Do we reach out to those who cannot pay us back in any way, or do we help seeking later interest? Perhaps the fastest path to Heaven may be found precisely in the directions, and people, which this earth most ignores, most  mocks, most ridicules as a waste of time.

Speaking of payback, are we all about gifts to us, or do we consider the gifts  God has given us as the best kind of re-gifting possible?  Perhaps we have a duty to identify our gifts and use them to help others, to bring them closer to God by bringing God closer to them. Consider that we may be more judged  on how well and how much we re-gifted our gifts to others seeking to serve the greater glory of God. The Magi brought their gifts to Our Lord.  Are we all about doing the same or, on the contrary, are we all about bringing our gifts to ourselves?

Consider the jealousy of Herod in seeking to destroy the Holy Child, all in the name of earthly power. Are we so consumed with grasping the dirt of this earth that we become mired in the mud of its very temporary nature? Who would lose their eternity to earn a moment of pleasure in this world? Perhaps we should consider that anything gained without Christ is a waste of time. Perhaps we will someday realize that earthly power, prestige, and gain are merely chains  holding us from rising to our true eternal potential. Money is not a bad thing, as long as we keep it in perspective. The only noble value of power is to use that power to change lives for the better, not serve our personal purposes. Consider the murder of the innocents brought about by earthly convenience. Are we not living in a world where this evil is hailed as law and as a noble human right?

Consider that the Holy Family fled for safety, because they were open, and obedient, to God’s guidance. Trust in His Will, and contentment with that Will, are critical ingredients if we are to find holiness and salvation in this present world. The sooner we realize that we must be passengers in God’s bus, and never drivers, the better off we will be.

Lastly, it will be to our best interest to realize that we are no farther from that Bethlehem of so long ago than we were a thousand years ago. In fact, the more we consider ourselves so far advanced, so much more civilized and modernized from that town so distant in time and space from our tech world, the closer we are to that very village we consider so far below our standards. We are truly a high-tech Bethlehem, so preoccupied with self, with amusement, with personal agendas, that we consider Christ something between an interesting ornament and an annoying woodpecker reminding us that our thrones and obsessions are mere dust in the eternal perspective. Like that Bethlehem of long ago, we spend one third of our time ignoring Christ,  another third pushing Him conveniently out of the way to some corner, and a final third of the time trying, directly or indirectly, to stamp Him out of our lives lest He bring discomfort to our desperate comfort.

Consider the lessons of Bethlehem. Perhaps we will realize, although try as we might to deny it, that we are all citizens of our own Bethlehem on steroids. Given that realization, we might ask ourselves if we will be shivering in the Holy Warmth of Our Savior’s Divine Innocence or basking in the empty warmth of our divine comforts.

© 2013  Gabriel Garnica.  All rights reserved.

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4 thoughts on “The Lessons of Bethlehem”

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