These words are dedicated to the memory of my friend, the late Otis Brumby Jr., publisher of the Marietta Daily Journal, who 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 that humble setting in a lowly manger. Was it really as cold that night as it is sometimes depicted on our Christmas cards or was it a cool and comfortable 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 how much her life was going to change. 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 as decreed by Caesar Augustus. I wish I could have talked to both Mary and Joseph and see what they had to say about that night.
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 angels said not to be. I think even hearing from the angels would have scared me. God’s power is awesome and he showed it that night.
I wish I could have observed the shepherds as they came pouring into Bethlehem and headed for the manger to see for themselves what the angels had proclaimed to them in the hills where they were tending their flocks. 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 when these three kings from the East appeared 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 try to explain to them that a child had been born in their midst that would forever change history. I am not sure they would have believed me if I could have 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 lives.
I wish I could figure out what has happened to us Christians since that fateful night in Bethlehem 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, Santa Claus and gaudy light displays? Why did we permit this sacred event to be hijacked 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 they offend someone? 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. In Bethlehem. With Mary and Joseph and the babe. With the shepherds. With the angels. With the Magi. Maybe if we had seen these things for ourselves, then we would understand how special Christmas really is.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.