One of the oldest and most reliable traditions places the Church of Nativity over the cave that would have been the room (or "stable") where Jesus was born. And I can see it through the hotel window. Samuel took his afternoon nap while I walked around Manger Square and visited the church. It's just pretty cool.
We happened to arrive in Bethlehem, on the day of the tree lighting ceremony in Manger Square last Friday. It was quite the event.
A team from Liverpool was hired to do all the lights - over 12 kilometers of lights - and it looks fantastic! They are staying at the same hotel as we are, Manger Square Hotel, and have quite the respected position after all their hard work. The town does fundraisers and various businesses around Bethlehem donate to fund this project. I think they got their money's worth.
I generally regard the cultural Santa Christmas and Jesus birth as two separate events coinciding on the same day, and they coexist in similar style here in Bethlehem. I don't believe Jesus was actually born during this time of year. It doesn't matter. What matters is that long ago a decision was made to remember Jesus birth on December 25th. It matters that for hundreds of years, countless people have honored His Name as they remember the day a King was born in Bethlehem.
So as we balance the joys of cultural Christmas (which, I love by the way), I'm reminded more than ever by this great cloud of witnesses that the baby born here in Bethlehem is King, and Savior. It's the greatest Joy to remember and honor Him this time of year, no matter what else this season brings!