Micah: Born in BethlehemSaturday, December 10, 2016
“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” (Micah 5:2).
It was an “on the way” place.
You passed through Bethlehem because you were on the way to or from Jerusalem. Two thousand years ago Bethlehem was indeed a “little town” as described in the familiar Christmas carol by Phillips Brooks. Although well-known as the birthplace of King David, the town itself was home to a few hundred permanent residents. Because it was close to Jerusalem, we can assume the inns and guest rooms were full of pilgrims making their way to and from Jerusalem on their way to various ancestral hometowns to pay the census tax required by Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1-3).
If God had wanted worldly pomp and ceremony, Jesus would have been born in Rome. If he had wanted good standing for his Son, he would have chosen Athens. If he had wanted religious acclaim, he would have chosen Jerusalem. Or he could have chosen Alexandria or Antioch. The Roman Empire was filled with famous cities.
But he chose Bethlehem, a truly out-of-the-way location. Even in Israel, Bethlehem was “least among the clans of Judah.”
Our God is not a frontrunner. He doesn’t need worldly power to accomplish his purposes. When Jesus was born, the world paid no attention to a young couple giving birth in a stable in some tiny village in a backwater province of the Roman Empire. No one noticed the baby wrapped in rags sleeping in a feeding trough.
In such an unlikely way, God moved into our neighborhood and became one of us. God’s ways are not our ways. If you doubt that, take another look at that sleeping baby. He will one day rule the world.
Do not despise small things. God chooses Bethlehem and a Savior is born.
When God starts small, he intends to do something big.
My Father, you are indeed the God of great surprises. Your ways are higher than my ways, and your thoughts much greater than my imagination. I bow before you and say, “Your will be done!” Amen.
Musical bonus: After visiting the Holy Land in 1865, Phillips Brooks wrote “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Here’s a beautiful version by Sarah McLachlan.