Bethlehem is about what God has done and still does

By Curtis Shelburne: Local columnist

The glory of Christmas is that it centers on something only God could have done.

No committee could ever have come up with Bethlehem. While God was busy saving the world, they’d have still been arguing over the shape of the table or the wording of the mission statement or fussing about regulations regarding sheep droppings and the environment or the perplexing problem of camel emissions.

No pow-wow of politicians, be they Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives, Liberals, Whigs, Tories, Labor, Green, Independent, Mean, Dumb, or Dull, or any combination thereof, could ever have drafted legislation to dispatch the right angel to the right virgin and send the right Baby. What politicians were on the scene fouled up royally. Herod was being Herod, which means being murderous. While Heaven was sending angels to glorify God, Caesar was sending bureaucrats to glorify government with its usual answer to every problem–longer lines and higher taxes.

No covey of theologians could ever have written enough books about the problem of sin and the nature of deity to have given any of us a clue as to how the God of the universe would choose to break in and save the world from sin.

No, what God did was something that only God could do. And that’s the glory of Christmas. It’s not about what we could do. It’s completely about what God did. And, though through the prophets, God had sent some tantalizing hints long before the birth at Bethlehem, what God did and how he did it was a complete surprise.

The amazing thing about Christmas continues to be that every time we celebrate the Grand Event, God still surprises us in the midst of the great blessing with a whole host of smaller ones.

When I strung the Christmas lights to spread a little holiday cheer even out in my shed, I didn’t know that a sweet granddaughter would go to sleep one evening out there on my lap after pointing her little finger upward and pronouncing one of her first little words in sleepy wonder, “Lights!”–and light up her PawPaw’s heart.

When at church we planned and rehearsed a little Christmas pageant with the angels and Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men, we didn’t know how completely and sweetly the flock of two-year-old sheep would steal the show by defying even the best shepherd’s attempts at corralling them. But they warmed a church’s heart.

You can’t program and plan joy. When it comes in its purest and most beautiful form, it’s always a glorious surprise, and God is always the One behind it.

And maybe that’s one of the deepest truths behind everything wonderful that God did at Bethlehem and the most important things he still does in our lives. If God lives in our hearts, Bethlehem’s Child is born there each day, surprising us yet again with His Joy.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at