Wednesday, December 13
Born in Bethlehem
Scripture Reading: Luke 2:4; Micah 5:2; Isaiah 11:1–4
I grew up in a small town where not a whole lot took place. Most people who hear “Chiefland” have to ask where it is because they’ve never heard of it. I have to use landmarks like 40 miles west of Gainesville or halfway between Tallahassee and Tampa on U.S. 19 to explain the location. Most would refer to it as “podunk." We’re probably most known for watermelons and speed traps. Bethlehem (“house of bread”), the town where Jesus was born, would not have much better of a reputation among most people. It was a “podunk" town known for raising sheep for making sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem. We even sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” because indeed it was very small. People would probably have to describe its location in relation to Jerusalem (about 5–6 miles SSW). Only those steeped in Scripture would have known that this little town was David’s birthplace and was prophesied as the place where the Messiah (“anointed one”) would originate. Even the prophecy from Micah 5:2 hints at the apparent insignificance of Bethlehem. Isaiah 11:1 discusses the shoot from the stump of Jesse (father of David) upon whom the Spirit of the Lord would rest, again pointing to the Messiah.
Both Matthew and Luke’s Gospels point to Bethlehem as the place where Jesus was born, thus demonstrating the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Messiah in Jesus. The chief priests and scribes respond by quoting from Mic 5:2 when the magi appeared before Herod and he inquired where the Messiah would be born (Matt 2:3–6). Although Jesus is referred to as “Jesus of Nazareth” because this is where He spent most of His growing up years (Matt 2:19–23; Luke 2:39–40), He was born in Bethlehem. This was often confused in His life and ministry. For example, in John 7:41–42, the crowd is convinced that Jesus is from Nazareth (in the region of Galilee) but the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. You can almost sense a “tongue-in-cheek” moment here because they were correct but didn’t realize He was born in Bethlehem, fulfilling the Messianic prophecies.
It amazes me how God chooses what appears to be insignificant to most people and makes them extraordinary. This is the Christmas story over and over again. In the same way Mary was chosen for no reason of her own to bear the Son of God, this little country town of shepherds was chosen as the place the Son of God would be born. It goes to show that our God sees so much more than we do and He always fulfills His promises.
- Why was it important that Jesus was born in Bethlehem? What does this say about God and His promises?
- Today, Bethlehem is an unstable city fought over by Jews, Muslims, and Christians. What does this say about its growth from humble beginnings to its significance today?
Listen to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”