“O Little Town of Bethlehem”

We’ve all heard the Christmas story over and over, but I think sometimes we miss how powerful it is. All of history, from the past to the future, goes to the books of Matthew, Chapters 1 and 2, and Luke, Chapters 1 and 2. In these four chapters, there are fifteen prophecies to eight different people.

Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus, the Wisemen, the shepherds, Simeon, and Anna, all received prophecies from God.

The Place of Bethlehem

Why did God choose Bethlehem to be the place where the Savoir of the world was to be born?

Matthew 2:1 – Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the day of Herod the king, behold wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, (Verse 2) saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Verse 3) When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 

(Verse 4) And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. (Verse 5) So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea. For thus it is written by the prophet: (Verse 6) ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’ “

Is not the city Bethlehem famous in the whole world? The majority of people in the world know about this small tiny village in Israel called Bethlehem, but not for any of its accomplishments of its own. It’s famous for one reason and that’s the birthplace of Christ. And it was the least of all the cities of all Judea. Bethlehem is about five or six miles south of Jerusalem. Even today, it’s still a small city, 25 or 30 thousand in population.

So why did God choose Bethlehem for the birth of His Son? Could it be because God likes to choose the smallest, inconsequential places to birth miracles? Deuteronomy 7 tells us why God chose Israel. God tells Israel that He chose them because they were the smallest nation in the world. God likes to take the smallest to show Himself the strongest.

The People of Bethlehem

Why did Joseph and Mary go back to Bethlehem in the first place? Was it because their ancestors came from there? 1 Samuel 16:1 – Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.” (Verse 4) So Samuel did what he LORD said, and went to Bethlehem. David was from Bethlehem! And the line of Jesus comes from David.

Joseph and Mary were ordinary people. And God chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Joseph was a carpenter. But that word carpenter in the Greek is a little broader than when we think of a carpenter today. The word is “Tekton” and means “builder.” Much of the building in Israel was with stone. Joseph went to work with tools used in working with wood and stone. He was a working man. And Jesus was also a builder. Jesus was in the “construction” business until He was around thirty years old. When Jesus started teaching and preaching, He wasn’t famous for those skills. He was famous for His carpentry.

Mary was probably a teenager. We all have something in common with her. She was carrying a responsibility from God. Do we not? Joseph and Mary were also people of “misunderstanding.” Can we not all relate to that? Have you ever had someone misunderstand or miss interpret your motives? Do you not think the people in town pointed and whispered about them? After all, Mary was pregnant but yet not married. No one believed Joseph and Mary’s story. Can you imagine what people said to Joseph when he went to work? No one had ever been impregnated by the Holy Spirit before and no one ever since.

The Problems of Bethlehem

Luke 2:4 – And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, (Verse 5) to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

(Verse 6) So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. (Verse 7) And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.

Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth which was a lot further than Jerusalem was to Bethlehem. Nazareth is 80 miles north to Bethlehem and Mary’s nine months pregnant. Everything was not all comfortable for them. But they had to travel to Bethlehem because it was required of them to register for taxes.

God doesn’t birth miracles out of perfect places or situations. He birth’s miracles out of problems. Does that not seem how it always is? God can take the worse circumstances and produce a miracle right there in the midst. God chose to have His Son, the Savior of the world, be born in a cave in a feeding trough!

Do you think Joseph might have had some doubts about whether or not this was really God? To think they traveled all that way and Mary was going to give birth to God’s Son in a cave. Joseph and Mary did not get to choose the terms or the timing of this miracle, and neither do we.

Christmas time can come with many problems. Some may have to face it without a loved one for the first time. Some may be facing a bad medical report and it may be their last Christmas. But I know that God is faithful and even though we live in a fallen world that’s filled with problems, there’s a promise!

The Promise of Bethlehem

Micah 5:2 – “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose going forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” In other words: “This is the Ancient of days coming!”

Micah 5:4 – And He shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God; and they shall abide, for now, He shall be great to the ends of the earth; (Verse 5) And this One shall be peace…”

Peace is not the absence of problems, peace is the presence of God in the midst of the problems! Don’t ever think that just because you may not have much money or you are too consumed with problems that you can’t “Have Christmas this year!” Is that what Christmas is really about?

The fact that a person can’t celebrate the birth of God’s Son because of a lack of something, money, or whatever, should never even be considered. Material gifts will fade away, so why not let the birth of a miracle flood your very being this Christmas and watch it overflow into someone’s life? Christmas is the celebration of the greatest gift we could ever receive from a God who loves us!

“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight!”

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