How far is it to Bethlehem?

By Al Ameer sonAl Ameer son at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

By Al Ameer son via Wikimedia Commons [Public domain]

How far is it to Bethlehem?
Not very far.
Shall we find the sable room
Lit by a star?

This poem was written by Frances Chesterton, wife of G.K. Chesterton. She wrote it for her Christmas cards in 1917. This little poem has been put to music and is still performed today. It asks a peculiar question, one that we all can ask ourselves: Just how far is it to Bethlehem? And no, the Frances wasn’t asking how far away Bethlehem is from your house.

Can we see the little Child?
Is He within?
If we lift the wooden latch
May we go in?

We are often hesitant in our desire for Jesus. We aren’t sure if we are worthy, if we have permission to enter into His presence. We wish to see Him, but are shy about opening the door.

May we stroke the creatures there
Ox, ass, or sheep?
May we peep like them and see
Jesus asleep?

Perhaps if we just stick by the animals, lingering at the edges of the scene. Maybe this will be close enough. We made it inside the stable, and yet we still have more of the journey to make.

If we touch His tiny hand
Will he awake?
Will He know we’ve come so far
Just for His sake?

At last, we gather just enough courage to approach Jesus, laying here in the manger. God, out of love made man, sleeping peacefully and undisturbed. How far have we traveled to arrive at this holy place? How many miles have our hearts walked, searching for this feeling of peace and comfort?

Great kings have precious gifts
And we have naught
Little smiles and little tears
Are all we have brought.

The Morning Star by Waiting with the Word via. Flickr (2011) CC.

The Morning Star by Waiting with the Word via. Flickr (2011) CC.

Our little smiles and little tears, our sweet joys and aching sorrows, these gifts of life are what we bring to the Christ-child. Our gift of self is all we have and all we need to bring a smile to Jesus’ sweet face. Jesus does not need from us precious jewels, costly treasures or mighty deeds. Instead, He asks us to journey with Him, to journey from the stable to the cross.

For all weary children
Mary must weep
Here, on His bed of straw
Sleep, children, sleep.

We are weary children, happy to have at last found Mary our mother and Jesus our brother. Mary lovingly wraps each of us in her arms, and just as she rocked Jesus to sleep, so too us. If we seek Jesus, we need only follow His mother’s gaze.

God in His mother’s arms
Babes in the byre
Sleep, as they sleep who find
Their heart’s desire.

What is your heart’s desire? What are you restless for? Is it possible that what you seek can be found nestled in a cradle made of wood and straw?

How far is your heart from Bethlehem?


Copyright 2015 Kate Taliaferro


About Author

Kate Taliaferro is an Air Force wife and mom of 3 under 4. She has a Masters in Religious Education and tries to find God’s presence everywhere, be it in cooking, cleaning, homeschooling or just the everyday ordinary. Follow her blog, Daily Graces to join her family as they strive for sainthood amidst playgrounds, art projects, and lots of imagination.

Leave A Reply

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.