I took the “featured image” of the place that according to tradition is where the shepherds were when they saw the angels who directed them to the new born baby Jesus.
Ya, I know, not much to look at. When I took the picture I wasn’t sure what I was trying to do, or get. But now I realize that is the point. Everything in Israel having to do with important sites particularly dealing with Christianity are all kind of over the top. They are kind of a little too much. Not disrespectful too much, but more in the sense of “all and anything we can do” in order to properly commemorate a site of meaning and importance to a Christian. Yea, ok, but….
The crucifixion site is probably the most “over the top”, just all kinds of stuff. Sure, it’s important, it’s as important as it gets and surely it’s tough to decide how much or how little you really want to mark a site.
Here and Capernaum are still essentially the same, and no question the Sea of Galilee was my favorite site in Israel. Both very much as Jesus would have seen them, or the shepherds. Bethlehem was important in that time, but only in terms of King David being born there and Micah’s prophecy that the Messiah would be born there, Micah 5:2. In Jesus’ time, 1,000 years after David, Bethlehem was a backwater, at best a notable cross roads. Why would the King of all Creation, the Lord of all, Savior of all, Messiah, why would the Son of God, King of Kings be born in this otherwise unremarkable place? And what happened to those shepherds in that unremarkable place?
They’re probably lying on the rocky soil in Israel, just trying to get some sleep. Shepherds were the lowest caste in Israel, just one small rung up from those who were criminals. They were ceremonially unclean so they couldn’t go to temple and worship. They were also not allowed to testify in courts, participate in any civic activity. They spent all their time in the fields with sheep, so you know they didn’t get a lot of invitations to visit for dinner.
But there these unremarkable people are, in this unremarkable place and the very remarkable happens! The sky lights up like nothing they could imagine. Legions of angels are standing over them. the “host of heaven”, that is the army of heaven. Angels aren’t the fluffy nice lady figures we imagine, angels in the Bible were very much portrayed as military, host means “army”. These shepherds must have been scared out of their minds by this. But the angel leader says “fear not”, we’re not here to overwhelm you. We’re here to tell you this amazing news, to you who aren’t amazing! This child is born, the Messiah, the promised One and you are invited to be His first visitors.
These bedraggled men, get up from their sleep from this unremarkable place, schlep through the darkness (there weren’t many roads and no street lights in Bethlehem in 1 AD), they find their way to this barn. They might have heard a baby cry from the barn. A baby in a barn, this time of night? And there they found the Savior of mankind, His mother Mary, no doubt still recovering. And the man God chose to give earthly guardianship to, Joseph, watching over the mother and child.
It really does stagger the imagination that God chose for His Son to be born in a remarkable way and yet to unremarkable people in an unremarkable place. He does not regard man, you could be king of the world, but God, having created that world, would not be impressed. With all that, yet His Son is born in such an ordinary place and the first people outside of His family to see Him are shepherds.
Jesus was born to save all people, He was born so that all could know Him as Savior. Not some all- powerful being, but the very close and knowable Son of God.