The original Christmas village

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.  Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.”

This past summer Amanda and I did a lot of walking while we were in the United Kingdom for my sabbatical studies.  We especially enjoyed walking the residential sidestreets during our visits to London, Oxford, Bexley-Heath, Bournemouth, and Weymouth.  The history of these towns is rooted in a village lifestyle, and it seems that at the center of every village there was, or is, a bakery.

In our home this time of year we have a few Christmas village scenes which are featured in our holiday display.  These Dickenesque houses are lighted models of wintry landscape and architecture.  But the original Christmas village was nothing like our English village scenes. The original Christmas village was rustic and somewhat rural.  The original Christmas village was Bethlehem of Judea.

This village, located approximately 5 miles from Jerusalem, is near the place where Jacob buried Rachel, it was the home of Naomi and Ruth, it was the site where Samuel anointed David, and it later became known, prophetically, as the city of David.

Bethlehem literally means “house of bread.” Bethlehem was appropriately named because it is located in one of the most fertile areas of Palestine.  The area abounded in wheat and barley and rye, the ingredients of bread, the stuff of life.  Biblically speaking, bread is a staple of life that poetically represents nurture, health, and provision.  It is no wonder that Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem, referred to himself as the Bread of Life.

This Christmas, as I reminisce about the multi-grain bread we enjoyed in the villages of England, I am more appreciative of the Bread that can satisfy our deepest hunger.  This year, may your Christmas be characterized by a growing faith, good health, and a generous sharing of your abundance with those who are lacking.

 “Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light.  The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

 

Barry Howard

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Barry Howard serves as senior minister of the First Baptist Church of Pensacola.

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