In 1964 Douglas V. Steere delivered a Christmas sermon, “Bethlehem Revisited” which was later printed in pamphlet form. I read it every year at this time. The sermon begins: “Christmas is a time when we are invited to revisit Bethlehem and to reconsider its miracle. Bethlehem does not change and the miracle does not change, but we change, and the eyes with which we are able to see change. Hence what we see from year to year is not the same, which makes this annual visit an adventure rather than a routine pilgrimage.” Steere was not speaking of a visit to present-day Bethlehem, but rather a visit to the inner Bethlehem of the heart where we ponder what the wondrous seed, Jesus, that was sown in the heart of the world, really means to our lives.
“I often ponder,” he said, “about how, if there is a God who cares for what happens to human beings on this or any planet, and if he was consumed with love and knew that only by love could men and animals and his world of nature live peacefully together, and he wanted to communicate, to disclose, to unveil this to them most effectively, how he would do it.”
“I cannot see,” Steere continues, “the life of Jesus as other than God trying to disclose his love for us and his attempt, at any price, to show us that the cosmos is grounded in love. All hate, all sin, all discord, all clefts, all ignorance, all confusion will finally give way to love. But this love, like a strip of wood, has its grain which must be followed. If we follow this grain we will find that we must change the patterns in which we have previously cast our lives. And I do not see how God could have made this disclosure more effectively than by placing his love in the body of a child, who was to become a man, and letting this cosmic message shine through the material envelope of a human life.” Advent is a time for revisiting the Bethlehem in our hearts.