Thanksgiving is barely over and now the celebration of Christmas has begun. If we can, for a moment, look beyond the tinsel and flashing lights of the season, and see God’s hand and heart in the real story behind the birth of His Son. For some of us, we question the people and place God chose to make this miracle happen. Through this amazing event in history, God’s perfect timing and plan, no matter how impossible they may seem, are always perfect.
There was nothing normal about the impending birth of Jesus. God of the Universe chose a 13 year-old virgin girl to become pregnant with His Son Jesus. Mary was, no doubt, shunned by friends and family for being pregnant and not married but she was willing to be used by God for His glory. To make matters worse, as she was about to give birth, Joseph and Mary had to travel 70 miles on a donkey to Bethlehem in obedience of an imperial command that all individuals return to their ancestral towns for a census to be taken.
Of all places, Bethlehem. It was a small, lowly city. No place to stay but in a cave with smelly animals and not even a bed to sleep. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the inn” (Luke 2:7). Seeming chaos and aloneness, but God had it all under control as planned before the beginning of time. His prophet Micah prophesied it in 750BC.
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past. … And He will stand to lead His flock with the Lord’s strength, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. … And He will be the source of peace” (Micah 5:2, 4a, 5a).
Why, with all the places for God to choose the birthplace for His only Son, would God choose a nothing city like Bethlehem? Surely, he deserved a high-profile birth in a castle with a multitude of servants attending such an event. God uses this event to show us that He makes what we see as unimportant and chaotic, into something remarkably significant.
This humble birth conveys a message to us that the world cannot. Jesus came to earth to be near and to be one of us. Imagine, the Holy, Creator God of the Universe was showing his love to all He created, by making Himself known and approachable. The King of kings came humbly. His first bed was a dirty manger, an eating trough for animals.
Upon closer study, we can see why this little, nothing of a town was the perfect place for Jesus to be born. The word Bethlehem means “house of bread,” which was important because in those days, bread was the main source of nourishment for survival. Bread was also used in Temple worship. It also symbolized God’s provision to the Israelites by sending manna each day after escaping from Egypt showing them that He alone was their only provider and sustainer.
Jesus is the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. He is willing and ready to provide us daily with all of our needs. This is why He boldly declared Himself to be the ‘bread of life” after feeding a hungry crowd of 5000 using five small barley loaves and two fish.
“Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish”(John 6:11). We serve a life-giving God of abundance who provides daily for our needs.
After this, He proclaimed: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35)
After the last supper,
“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” (Luke 22:19).
We should all thank our Holy God for guiding and directing us through life even when it makes no sense and things seem out of control. God can always be trusted to guide us to where he wants us to go, even to a Bethlehem.