Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

A Bedlam surprise



A ‌massive wave swept over much of ‌Oklahoma recently. It is ‌‌called "The Bedlam Series" and refers to the pandemonium that occurs when the two Big 12 universities in the state square off annually against one another in football.

I spent some time thinking further about bedlam. It is an interesting word.

It has been the name of a film and a few television shows. The word has been used as the title of at least two novels, a work of science fiction, and in comic books. It has been the name of rock bands and a rap group, as well as serving as the title of several songs and an album.

Bedlam is a word that emerged during the 14th century, as the name for an English institution became abbreviated in common speech. The full name included the word Bethlehem. The name went through several contractions and became Bedlam, then over time lost its capitalization as it became a synonym for madness.

Yet the concept behind Bedlam was anything but madness. In fact, it sought to restore sanity.

Bedlam was a specialized hospital in London that sought to help the mentally challenged people of its time.

In 1247, the bishop-elect of Bethlehem founded an institution to generate income for the crusades. That evolved into a place that housed the poor. In the 1370s, King Edward III took control of the facility and, by the early 1400s, it had become an institution for the insane, as the clients were called.

So, the word "bedlam" finds its origin in the word "Bethlehem."

As Christmas approaches, we are faced with a choice. Do we wish to celebrate the origins of the season or be subject to the madness of it?

The name Bethlehem has a radically different origin. It means "the house of bread."

When I reflect on "the house of bread" and Jesus, I find yet another reason for joy in the season.

As I consider the birth of Jesus, I realize that he is the Bread of Life, born in the town called the house of bread. I realize that the Bread of Life was laid in a manger — a trough where food for the animals was placed.

I realize that the Bread of Life was given for all the world.

The prophet Micah offered these words about the city of Christ’s birth: "As for you, Bethlehem of Ephrathah, though you are the least significant of Judah’s forces, one who is to be a ruler in Israel on my behalf will come out from you. His origin is from remote times, from ancient days." (Micah 5:2, CEB)

Today, many in the world have changed the ideal of Bethlehem and substituted bedlam for it. Christmas has been reduced to a series of shopping, parties, and travel. The pace of life increases. All of this works against the development of our spiritual lives.

It can be bedlam … but it does not have to be. Feed on the Bread of Life.


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