“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!”

I Wish You A “Mary” Christmas!

A miracle happened in Mary over two thousand years ago. A miracle conception; she carried the miracle and then delivered the miracle to the world. Is it God’s desire for His Son’s life to be conceived in all of us, grow in all of us, and to be delivered through all of us to the world around us?

Luke 1:26 – Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,) (Verse 27) to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. (Verse 28) And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

This angel went to a specific city, to a specific house, to a specific woman. Here is a clear observation: God knows where you live! I think we all need to be reminded of that, especially at Christmas. Why? Because the enemy can come in our thoughts and tell us that God has forgotten about us! God has not forgotten you or me. And God wants to conceive a miracle in our lives also.

Luke 1:30 – Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. (Verse 31) “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.”

The Conceiving of the Miracle

What did Mary have to do for this miracle to be conceived in her? Many people will say, “nothing.” But that’s not correct.

Luke 1:34 – Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be since I do not know a man?” (Verse 35) And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. (Verse 36) “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. (Verse 37) “For with God, nothing will be impossible.” (Verse 38) Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed her.

Mary’s first response was unbelief, but then she took what the angel said by faith and believed him. When we first have doubt but then God gives us a word about the situation, be at peace, because with God all things are possible. And then, we respond the same way Mary did, “Be it unto me according to your word.” We make a choice to receive by faith. If we will do that, the miracle will not only be conceived but will begin to grow in us.

The word “angel in Greek is “Aggelos,” meaning “messenger,” messenger of the Lord. However, the power for the miracle is not in the angel, it is in the word of the Lord. It really doesn’t matter who the messenger is. We should not get hung-up on how that word comes!

Do you believe that God wants to conceive a miracle in you? Why not? Always, always remember that you are loved by an awesome loving God and He wants only the best for you and me.

The Carrying of the Miracle

The in-between time from when the miracle is conceived to the time the miracle is complete is often forgotten. However, we know what Mary did during this time.

Luke 1:39 – Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, (Verse 40) and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. (Verse 41) And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 

(Verse 42) Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! (Verse 43) “But why is this granted to me, that the mother of the Lord should come to me? (Verse 44) “For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

(Verse 45) “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” (Verse 46) And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, (Verse 47) and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. (Verse 48) For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; for behold henceforth all generations will call me blessed.

Yes, we honor Mary, but in no way do we make her a deity or pray to her because that is not Scriptural. But we honor her because God brought the most wonderful miracle through her.

Notice what Mary did first after hearing this miracle would be born through her, she went to another miracle carrying person. Mary was probably surrounded by gossipers who didn’t believe her miracle so she went to her relative that was also carrying a miracle. Mary went to someone who would encourage her. Elizabeth told her because she believed there was going to be a “fulfillment!”

If you want to birth your miracle, you need to be around people who will encourage you and have a miracle within themselves. That shouldn’t be hard to do, but sometimes Christians can be the most negative people around. So find people who have had a miracle or are about to, to be around.

In every circumstance in life, we have a choice whether to make the circumstances larger or make God larger – “magnify the Lord!” The way that we make something larger in our lives, is we focus on it. If a person thinks about the negative circumstances, then they make them appear larger in life. But the way that we magnify God and praise Him is to focus on Him.

Isaiah 26:3 – You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You. If you can’t find anyone to encourage you, get in God’s word and build yourself up. Believe God’s word and what He says about you and the focus will be on Him and He will bring you peace.

Ephesians 4:1 – I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,… Galatians 4:19 – My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you.

In the same way that a woman carries a baby, she does things differently. When they are carrying another life, they eat differently; she’s protective of what she does; she walks different; sits and gets up different, a woman that is pregnant is always conscious of the life she is carrying.

So could we as believers always be conscience that we are carrying Christ and He is growing inside of us? Remember what Paul said in Galatians 4:19, “Until Christ is formed in you.”

The Completion of the Miracle

Luke 2:6 – 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.

This is our wonderful Christmas story that is read all over the world. However, it wasn’t so pleasant for Mary being nine months pregnant and having to travel such a long trip. Her baby is coming and there is no place warm and comfortable to stay. They had to stay in a cave where the animals were kept. Most didn’t have barns back then, they were caves. And she delivers the miracle of God and lays HIm in a feeding trough.

The miracle, when it comes, might not come like we think it’s going to come. Eight days after giving birth, Mary and Joseph travel to the temple in Jerusalem and meet with Simeon. Simeon blesses Jesus and then says to Mary: Luke 2:34 – Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (Verse 35) (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

And thirty-three years later, she’s standing at the foot of a cross, as they take the lifeless body of her baby off the cross. But if not for the cross, we would not be where we are as believers today!

If we will carry the miracle in a worthy manner, God will complete it. Philippians 1:6 – being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

You might be thinking, “But I’m not pure and Mary was. How could God perform a miracle through me?” 1 Corinthians 6:9 – Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, (Verse 10) nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (If the passage stopped there, we’d all be trouble.) 

(Verse 11) And such “were” some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. And by the grace of God, we can all be on another list. We are on a list that qualifies me and you to carry a “Miracle!”

2 Corinthians 11:2 – For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

Because of grace, every believer is qualified to carry Jesus to the world!