Note: Over a four-week period leading up to Christmas, our Communion meditations are considering four essential features to the story of the birth of God’s Son. This week we highlight the town of Bethlehem.
By Stuart Powell
When Rome ruled the Mediterranean region, many cities rose to prominence in the empire while others lingered in obscurity. Bethlehem was an insignificant place by then, though it had been the birthplace of King David a thousand years earlier.
Long before the Romans conquered much of the civilized world, the luster of Bethlehem’s importance had been forgotten. That was the situation 300 years after King David’s reign—still 700 years before Christ—when God sent the prophet Micah to preach hope to the people in rural Judah. Micah shared this promise from God:
“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” (Micah 5:2).
God planned to anoint another son of Bethlehem as king of Israel. He would be a king who ruled even before David. As the centuries passed, Bethlehem’s lowly station remained unchanged as they waited for the new king. The Jewish people endured the wicked rule of pagan kings from Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, but there was no king in Bethlehem. In their waiting, Israel forgot about God’s promise through Micah.
However, God fulfills his promises even when man forgets them. In the days when Herod the Great was the Roman ruler of Judea, God Almighty stepped into creation at Bethlehem. God fulfilled his promise. Joy entered the world.
At this time of year we remember Bethlehem because of the second King, Jesus, who was born there. We remember the shepherds who found him in a manger there. We recall the gift-bearing Magi guided to Bethlehem by a star and by Micah’s 700-year-old promise.At this time of year we remember Bethlehem because of the second King, Jesus, who was born there. Click To Tweet
As we look forward to Christmas, let’s remember how the second King from Bethlehem established his rule. Jesus served, taught, healed, preached, forgave, suffered, and then he gave up his life. Yet, through all of this, he never sinned.
We remember the details of Micah’s promise as we gather around this table set with the broken bread and the filled cup. The bread tells how the new King’s human body was crucified on our behalf. The cup reminds us of his blood that washes away our sins and clothes us in his righteousness.
As we partake, let’s thank God for the sacrifice of his second King of Bethlehem.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.
I am not one who celebrates many events or days. I do think about that summer day when Jesus was 12 years old and was celebrating his bar mitzva by staying in Jerusalem at the temple talking with the teachers. I also remember that summer day at the Jordan river when he came to John to be baptized. The weather was warm and the water pleasant. I think I agree with the modern day others put so much emphasis on that is now called Easter. I don’t celebrate Easter like some do by serving the Lord’s Supper once every year
I like to celebrate with him every week if I am able to as he has asked me to “as often as you eat and drink” these with me remember me. It is at this time I can remember he was born in Bethlehem as Micah prophesied. I can remember when he was 12 and he had stayed in the temple because he knew he had to be about his father’s business but he also had to be obedient to his parents to be sinless. I can also remember his dying on the cross and his resurrections on what we call a Sunday. He lived and died for me so his life and his resurrected life as both Lord and Christ are important to me. I choose to celebrate it with Him with the bread and wine.