Christmas near Bethlehem: A holy night in a holy city

By Brent L. and Wendy C. Top

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Dec. 21 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

The night Jesus was born, scores, perhaps even hundreds, of people were packed in every available space in the “inn” — the khan, or caravanserai. There was no privacy. Undoubtedly, the air was filled with a blend of sounds and smells; people talking, even shouting; bellowing livestock; smoke from fires for warmth and cooking; unpleasant smells from animals and humans.

These people had gathered to Bethlehem, the city of David, from many places for a high holy day yet were unaware of the spiritual significance — even holiness — of what was occurring in a cave beneath them. They had perhaps noticed the young couple — the wife ready to give birth. This couple appeared much like all of the other pilgrims coming to the Holy City. Little did the pilgrims know the young couple and their babe would come to be known as the Holy Family. Holiness was found, at least that night, not just in the temple in Jerusalem but in a cave in Bethlehem.

For Christ is born of Mary,

And, gathered all above

While mortals sleep, the angels keep

Their watch of wond’ring love.

Although we, as a family, may have missed out on a cultural experience among the crowds at Manger Square that Christmas Eve, we experienced something far greater — a holy night. It was just us — Mom and Dad and children (and some nearby sheep and goats) and the spirit of the Lord. In the stillness of Shepherds' Field, as we remembered and reverenced the Holy Family, our determination was strengthened to become a holy family ourselves.

How silently, how silently

The wondrous gift is giv’n!

So God imparts to human hearts

The blessings of his heav’n.

No ear may hear his coming;

But in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive him, still

The dear Christ enters in.

Brent L. and Wendy C. Top have written or co-authored several books, including "Protecting Against Eternal Identity Theft," "Glimpses beyond Death’s Door," "What’s on the Other Side?" and "When You Can’t Do It Alone."

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