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I’ve been dabbling with spoken word poetry, on stage and in sermons. Here’s something that I tried out in both places. I’m still new to this so it needs work, but some folks asked for it…so here it is.
We like to put Bethlehem in a box…and then take it out once a year. Bethlehem is a “good neighborhood”, made of felt board and figurines. It is a delicate place that demands a delicate ritual. We unpack Bethlehem with our fingertips, piece-by-piece. Bethlehem is predictable. The characters are always the same and the story never changes.
We bring Bethlehem home because, in some sense, Bethlehem stands for home—or at least our ideal of what it should be. Adoring parents, abundant gifts. An angel showing divine approval while looking down from above. Bethlehem is stable.
But this is not the Bethlehem of the Bible and this is rarely the home of our lives.
Bethlehem is a Biblical bus stop. It’s a spiritual transfer station where one finds God an moves on. No one stays in Bethlehem.
David slays Goliath and goes north to Jerusalem.
The shepherds return West to their flocks.
Wise men go East.
The Holy Family flees south.
The price for staying is the death of innocence that far too many have paid.
Bethlehem makes warriors out of runts and gods out of babies.
Bethlehem is made more of blood than of plastic.
Figurines don’t shit. Babies and donkeys do.
But still, Bethlehem is beautiful and it is necessary.
Bethlehem is where you go to find God…and then GO because you can’t spell God without “GO” and I’m pretty sure the “D” doesn’t stand for “dump your ass here.”
As I look over the Bethlehem box in my living room, I wonder, who are we in the home for God?
We, in this room, are not the bored shepherds, falling asleep on their staffs. We’re not dirty enough, not oppressed enough, not nearly poor enough to have God show up in our back yard. We are not frightened by angels because we’re too entertained to hear them.
We are wise, or at least educated. It takes a star to catch our eyes, but when our eyes have been caught it is easy to reel us in and here, here is the power of the wise men generation, the potential power of us.
We are the generation who leaps so that we can look at the view.
We put all our eggs in one basket and count them as chickens in waiting
We run with scissors because we know that someone needs them now (plus we’ve got shit to do and it’s not that hard to protect yourself from scissors).
We go on road trips to anywhere because the trip is what we remember
and that goes for life too: it’s the trips we remember because it’s easy to laugh after a fall—except when it hurts…that’s when it’s easy to cry. Yes, it’s the trips we remember.
Our generation knows that all who wander are not lost and that the lost might not be if they just wandered around a bit.
The world has forgotten that the wise leave home, chase after stars and set their sights high.
The wise are civil in their disobedience to authority but disobedient nonetheless.
The wise lose home and find themselves.
So maybe Bethlehem stands for home after all—or an improvised home for those of us who find home on the road.
Bethlehem stands for home in the face of homelessness, and home in the face of God.