From Bethlehem to Calvary
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
There is a season when trash cans get filled with wrapping paper, the fridge gets filled with leftovers, and the streets get filled with dried-up pine trees. It’s the “Holiday Season.” That unique time of the year when we gather to give thanks. Then within a month, we’ll celebrate the birth of Jesus and, a few months later, His death. It’s not very far from Bethlehem to Calvary, just a brief distance from the cradle to the cross.
It’s a two-hour walk from the sleepy little town of Bethlehem, where Christ was born, to the bustling streets of Jerusalem, where He would be crucified. It’s down this road that Jacob brought his wife, Rachel, to bury her in Bethlehem. It was on this road to Bethlehem that Naomi and Ruth came to start a new life. King David was born in Bethlehem and no doubt traveled this route many times, and it is here that a carpenter brought his young, pregnant wife to be numbered in a census ordered by the Emperor.
Only thirty-three years Jesus traveled on this earth. It was a short lifetime between tears of joy and singing angels, to tears of grief and cursing soldiers. It’s a blink of an eye from swaddling clothes to a crown of thorns, from dimples and stubby fingers to blood-stained cheeks and nail-pierced hands.
As close as it might be, not many have made the journey from Bethlehem to Calvary because most people prefer the cradle over the cross. People who generally, give little attention to God or the Church will pay a great deal of attention at Christmas time, even if it is unintentional.
We may not like the commercialization of Christmas but don’t miss the opportunity. Whether society wants to admit it or not, they are joining in the celebration of Christ’s birth. The birth of the Savior is being proclaimed every time “Silent Night” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is being played over the PA.
Easter on the other hand is a different story. There have been attempts to capitalize on it as a holiday, but it comes in a distant second to Christmas. Although people prefer to talk about births rather than crucifixions, it is nonetheless a very short distance between Bethlehem and Calvary. Most folks are content to leave Jesus in the cradle because a child is safe. He makes no demands on our lives. Babies are someone to observe rather than obey. We don’t fear warm and cuddly. This child won’t remain in the manger forever.
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
The birth of the child in Bethlehem would be of little consequence without the death of the man on Calvary. Without Calvary, Bethlehem is the birth of a good man, just one more Jewish baby in a land of Jewish babies. Jesus could have been born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, taught, healed, and performed miracles, and then died an old man and all we would have is a wonderful example to follow.
Calvary would not have been mankind’s redeeming event if God had not chosen to enter this world as a child and to live as a man. It took His sacrificial death to take away the sin of the world. Bethlehem holds the promise of eternal life, but it’s Calvary that holds the gift of eternal life. It’s a short distance from Bethlehem to Calvary.
Don’t wait until Christmas to share the wonderful story of the birth of our Savior. It is a message that should be proclaimed year around. Remember the short distance to Calvary, it is why we celebrate Christmas.
Until next time,