I’ve lived in the ‘burbs of Chicago for over 30 years now, but in my heart, I’m still a small town girl. I spent several of my formative years in a little bit of a village, population 199. Directly across the street out our front door was a corn field: black dirt with green fuzz in the spring, lush waving stalks in the summer, turning to brown in the fall, and snow covered stubble in the winter. From that town we moved to a sprawling metropolis with 4000 inhabitants. Being the preacher’s kid, it was impossible for me to be anonymous. Everyone knew me and knew my business and had an opinion about me and passed pertinent information on to my parents.
A man walking into town with his VERY pregnant wife riding on a donkey did NOT go unnoticed in the little town of Bethlehem. Even if his was the only door Joseph knocked on, it wasn’t just the innkeeper who denied them lodging. People politely nodded and then turned from the small procession, hurrying home to tell friends and family. If there is one thing I know about small towns, it's that everyone knew about the new inhabitants in the barn at the edge of town before the angels told them.
Of course, to be fair, Bethlehem was overrun with visitors at the time. It is quite possible that there were other babies born during that census who were also far from their homes. And even though it isn’t recorded in the Bible, I am confident that Bethlemites brought food, clothing and parenting advice to the young family in days to come. That is, after all, one of the things that small towns do best.
I’m not trying to judge Bethlehem harshly. My heart is, after all, a small town heart. I grew up there. I am that. I have spent time in gossip before (hopefully) moving on to action. I have politely observed and turned my head when I should have offered assistance instead. I am exactly the kind of person that Christ was born to save. No, I am the person that He was born to save – one of them, at least.
Happy Birthday, Jesus.
Welcome into this small town heart.