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.