It’s nice to go to Bethlehem this time of year as starry imaginations lead us to the site of the first Christmas. Popular depictions of the Nativity story invariably include scenes of a pregnant young lady and her anxious husband searching for a resting place among crowded inns before finally boarding up in a rudimentary stable. As the familiar drama plays out, we are left with a classic image of the baby Messiah laying his sweet head in a manger alongside Mary and Joseph and a company of shepherds, angels, and wise men (and even some friendly beasts!). Such a picture radiates unlikely beauty in the softness of a silent night where all is calm, all is bright.

But is this how it really looked? Perhaps our classical portrayal of the Christmas story is based more on what we want to see than what Scripture describes. Even so, my discussion is less concerned with exegeting the Nativity narrative and more interested in looking through the gospel to consider an urgent contemporary moral failure, because the story of Bethlehem’s babies today is indeed a troubling tale.

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