Thursday, December 2, 2010

O Little Town of Bethlehem

It’s Advent season once again, and early in the season it’s customary to think through some of the prophecies of Jesus’ first coming. The Old Testament is full of them. Matthew cites five of them in his telling of the Christmas story in Matthew 1-2. One of those citations concerns the place of Jesus’ birth.

It comes from Micah. In the midst of Micah’s prophecies concerning God’s judgment on Israel and Judah, we find this word of hope for God’s people: “But you Bethlehem …, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Matthew alters this prophecy a bit when he cites it in Matthew 2:6. But he cites it as the clue that enabled Herod’s priests to tell the Magi where to find the baby king. That’s the key thing in both Micah and in Matthew: Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

Why is this important? On the prophetic level it’s important because Bethlehem is David’s town and Jesus was to come from the line of David (Isa. 11:1-5). On a theological level it’s important because this prophecy hints at Jesus pre-existence: “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” And on a practical level it’s important because it reminds us that God works in history, in particular places and through particular people at particular times for particular purposes.

The Christian faith is rooted in history. Yes, God is transcendent and above history, yet God is also immanent (Immanuel—which means “God with us”) and works in history. God’s plan was to send His Son to earth to be born in Bethlehem. So when the time was right, God called a particular woman, Mary, to bear His child, and a particular man, Joseph, to provide a dad and a home for Jesus—both of whom were in David’s line. God then prompted Caesar Augustus to call for a tax registration (Luke 2:1-3) which got Joseph and Mary to leave Nazareth and get to Bethlehem just in time for Jesus’ birth. You see it, don’t you? God works in time and history through particular people in particular places to accomplish His particular will for our world and our lives.

And the good news in that for us is that God also chooses to work in your particular life in your particular place to accomplish His particular will in and through you. He knows who you are. He knows where to find you. He knows how to work in and through your life right where you are. Are you open to God’s work in your life this season? Are you listening for His call?

No comments:

Post a Comment