Would you have gone?
About 2020 years ago plus or minus thirty-three years, a child was born outside the city of Bethlehem. Today’s imagery of this event usually shows a wooden shed housing the couple with the infant in a manger. But most scholars think it was in a small cave. A cave is not far-fetched as the purpose of these sheds was to feed and provide some shelter for their animals, and if a cave was available, it is natural for the local herdsmen to use them.
Likewise, it is reasonable for the parents to put the child in a manger, a close approximation to cribs in size and shape. That they were there at all was due to unfortunate timing and no room at the inn. So far, these events are less than noteworthy. Few if any of the residences of Bethlehem would know of this event was occurring in the field just outside their city.
But then there was the star. That certainly was not usual. There are many ideas about the star, but most do not stand up to reason. Halley’s Comet was visible around that time, but it wouldn’t have led the magi from Baghdad to Israel. Maybe an exploding star, a supernova, but science does not support that idea. The best guess is the alignment of Saturn and Neptune and a very bright moon. The people of Bethlehem might have noticed that. But would it lead them to the site that gave rise to the greatest story ever told? Better yet, the star was a miracle, holy light from heaven above, too different to ignore, and like the wise men, they left their homes to see what it heralded.
The magi knew it was a great event; they saw it in the stars, but everyone else, a baby’s birth, that happened in a farmer’s animal shelter, not apocryphal. Perhaps the choir of angels singing heavenly praise inspired awe and wonder for those that ventured into the countryside that cold evening, but most people just went to bed after a hard day’s labor and missed this moment in history.
Do you think you would have left the warmth of a hearth and gone to see? Would you have dared to risk the occupying Roman forces’ objection to what may well be something they were doing? I might have gone if I were young and adventurous, a teenager bored with everyday life, or a traveler, excited by being in a new place.
Would you have believed it if someone told you the son of God was entering the world in a cave just outside the city?
We all know the story, even non-Christians. For some of us, we see it in our mind’s eye, the nativity scene as we imagined it when we first heard the story, when Christmas time was a magical time of the year, colored lights and anticipation, messages of peace and goodwill, glad tidings.
We would have gone. Of course, we would have gone.