Millions of people around the world celebrate this time of year and reflect back on the birth of a child in a far away land 2000 years ago. You would be hard pressed to find someone, no matter thier belief system, or lack of, that has not heard the story. But, there aren't many who know "the rest of the story". As a believer and a pastor I have studied the story in depth and it is in the little known details that I find the most comfort, the most inspiration. The awe inspiring evidence of our creators hand in every detail. We know the story. There was no room at the inn. The holy family had to search out a place to stay and all that was available was a small grotto in the little town of Bethlehem used to house animals. But do you know what this little insignificant town was known for? Why Bethlehem? Bethlehem is even today a small town about 5 miles down the road from Jerusalem. The Isrealites were commanded to come three times each year from all over the nation to observe the Holy Feast Days. During this time they were required to offer live animal sacrifices. The sacrificial lamb had to be absolutely spotless. They had to be examined by a priest or a judge and ruled to be spotless. Any devotee traveling from the corners of the nation could not take the chance that a sacrifice brought with them on the long trek would arrive spotless and without blemish. So a thriving business grew up to provide these pilgrims with a perfect sacrifice when they arrived. Tens of thousands of sheep were raised and were available in the markets for purchase. The center of this thriving enterprise was the small hamlet just down the road from Jerusalem, Bethlehem! Yes, for hundreds of years before the birth of that child, the city that he was born in was known as the place where the sacrificial lambs, used to take away the peoples sins, were born and came from! Jump ahead 33 1/2 years. The child is grown into a man and is about to fulfill the purpose he was born for. The man born in Bethlehem has been judged by Herod and Pilate and found to be spotless, "without sin". He is sacrificed and his body sealed in a tomb. 3 days later he rose again to be the savior of the world. The women who discovered the empty tomb that morning reported that the linen cloth used to cover his face was neatly folded and laid upon the cleft in the rock hewn tomb. But did you know... In the ancient world with primitive medical knowlege it was not uncommon for a person to be pronounced dead when in fact they were actually in a deep coma. So in Roman law it was required that for a person to be officailly declared deceased they had to entombed for,you guessed it 3 days. A person can only live without water for about 3 days. So a person sealed in a tomb, if not dead when put in, would certainly be dead after the 3 days, and only then could they be officially certified to be actually deceased. Christ fulfilled this requirement. Also it is interesting to read that when informed that his good friend Lazuras was dying and asked to come heal him he waited. Then as Lazurus lay in his tomb he still waited. It was only upon the 4th day after Lazurus was entombed that Christ finally came and "called him forth". This is why Lazurus's relatives and friends were incredulus when told by Christ that Lazurus was not dead, only asleep. They knew that the period had elapsed and that there was no possible way that someone could merely be asleep. The linen cloth was folded neatly and laid upon the cleft. Why did the women and the recorders of scripture feel the need to report this seemingly insignificant fact? Linen napkins were a very expensive item in ancient Isreal. You only brought them out for important guests. If you were a guest in an Isrealite home during this time you would be given a napkin to use during your meal. It was good manners to lay this valuable accessory carefully upon the table when you rose after the meal. But, if you really wanted to pay your host a compliment, beyond simple good manners. You would neatly fold your napkin and place it upon the place you had been sitting. This signified that "I enjoyed your hospitality and I will return again." You were in fact saying "save my place, I'll be back." Now you know the rest of the story. I hope all enjoy your time with family and friends. I hope that believers will remember the source of our strength and hope. I won't wish anyone a "Merry Christmas" as I don't celebrate this pagan ritual but that is another topic. But I do respect the oppurtunity to focus people upon the "reason for the season". May Yahweh's grace and peace be upon you all. Even my athiest and pagan friends!