Wednesday, December 2, 2015

LSB 361 O Little Town of Bethlehem

LSB 361 O Little Town of Bethlehem

The little town of Bethlehem has a long and varied story in the scriptures. Bethlehem makes its first appearance as the burial place for Rachel (Genesis 35:19). Jacob and Rachel had two sons, Joseph (of technicolor deamcoat fame) and Benjamin. In the course of giving birth to her second son, Benjamin, Rachel died and Jacob buried her at Bethlehem.

The book of Ruth details how Ruth the Moabite married Boaz the Bethlehemite who then raised their family in Bethlehem - Obed fathered Jesse who in turn became the father of King David.

After David set up Jerusalem as his kingdom's capital, Bethlehem faded from the scene until Micah reminded the people of Jerusalem that they would need to return to their Bethlehem roots to see God in action.

Micah 5:2
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
Bethlehem grows into a sign of Christ's humility.  The Bethlehem stable carries the devotional and poetic contrast to the Jerusalem Palace and Temple.  Bethlehem is revered today as Jesus birthplace.

Luke 2:3-7
The Birth of Jesus Christ
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
But the Eternal Word robing himself in human nature is only the first step as the hymn itself describes.  The Christmas journey moves that same Eternal Word into the hearts and minds of people.

John 14:23
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

The Christian Christmas plea is that the birth in Bethlehem is a vital first step, but it is not yet enough. The one who was born must also "impart to human hearts the blessings of His heaven." The simplicity and humility of the first Christmas is mirrored over and over again by the simple new birth miracle of faith and love as new Christians share in the body of Christ.

Ephesians 3:16-19
that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.