She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
Luke 2:7 NLT
Where do you come from? What do you say when people ask that? Do you answer with pride, or do you find yourself making excuses for your hometown? ‘I come from Des Moines’ said author Bill Bryson. ‘Somebody had to.’
There are glamorous places – capital cities, hotspots of fashion and culture, with thriving night life and bustling streets. There are market towns, full of character, with a sense of history and tradition. There are villages with rustic charm or natural beauty. And then there are just lots and lots of middle of the road, forgettable places, nowhere in particular.
You don’t spot celebrities in the local cafes and clubs. Nobody sets a movie or TV show here. It never turns up on the news. You won’t find it in the tour guides, and the streets are free of tourists. It’s ordinary, boring.
The Christmas story is full of people who are on the fringes, but a place can be marginalised too. Bethlehem is such a place. It’s not terrible. There are plenty of worse places. But it’s nowhere in particular. It’s just unremarkable, and yet all of a sudden it finds itself the setting of this incredible cosmic drama. This is where God in human form will take his first breaths. This is where his eyes will open for the first time, in a stable of all places. This is where the angels will sing. This is where a brand new star will burst into the sky, and travellers will cross the known world to find out why.
Where do you come from? What do you say when people ask? Take pride. Own your hometown. Because there are no unimportant towns, nowhere that doesn’t matter, nowhere outside the scope of God’s interest. God is in all the forgotten places, the backwaters, the airport towns, the post-industrial cities, the sleepy villages. The spirit of God hums through all creation. Step outside your front door, walk down the pavement, and know that every step is sacred ground.