Bethlehem - "born to us"

Reading: Luke 2.1-20
In February 2001, a road-block prevented all but Palestinians from entering Bethlehem – since the present troubles began in October 2000.

It was a big disappointment not to visit "David’s town" – though as I write this the situation has deteriorated further as Israelis have been searching for the assassins of the Tourism Minister.

The best our tour guide could do was take us to a vantage-point south of Bethlehem. There it was, in the distance across a valley, Jerusalem just visible in the far distance. Down there in the valley below we could see a herder looking after his small flock of sheep or goats – we couldn’t make out which. Somehow I have always imagined "out in the fields" in a horizontal sense, not down in the valley.

So this is where David was looking after Jesse’s sheep – while his big brothers met God’s prophet Samuel. But the Lord looks on the heart and David, the youngest, was the one chosen to be king (1 Samuel 9).

In spite of those royal connections, Bethlehem wasn’t highly regarded. Even our Jewish guide comforted our disappointment by telling us, "Really, you haven’t missed much." Yet the prophet Micah said, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, 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" (5.2).

Of course, when the Roman Emperor called a census, directing everyone "to his own town", every remote connection of King David turned up in Bethlehem – "there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2.7).

Jesus, the Son of God, was of royal line, but who would have suspected it? Born in a stable, laid in a manger – a cattle feeding-trough.

And the message was given to shepherds, "Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (v. 11).

"Born to you..." Yes, it happened here in Bethlehem, David’s town (the word means "house of bread"). He was "born to you" – to every one of us – come as our Saviour, Christ the Lord, bringing forgiveness and life and all kinds of new possibilities if only we will receive him and welcome him and believe in him and follow him.

It happened in Bethlehem. And the present pain of that town reminds us of the pain of its inhabitants of two thousand years ago – as Herod tried to eliminate the child of promise (Matthew 2.13-18).

He was born to us. Welcome him! Receive him! Believe in him! Follow him! He is the only hope of the world!

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you were born to us. You came because of our brokenness and twisted motives, our selfishness and sin. You lived your life here – and gave your life here for us. We receive you as our Saviour and seek to obey you as our Lord. We want to live our Christmas – and all our life – in the light of your love and grace. Amen.

House of Bread

Bethlehem -
house of bread -
in you was born
to Jesse
a son,
to be king.

Bethlehem -
house of bread -
in you was born
to us,
to the world,
a Saviour,
Christ the Lord.

Bread of life,
our world
is tired
and hungry!
We feed ourselves
with selfishness
and violent acts.
We squander
your gifts
on our petty desires
and are hungry still.
Lord Jesus,
feed us now!

© Peter J. Blackburn, Burdekin Blue Care Devotions, 27 November 2001
More photos of Israel are available here.
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.

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