O Little Town of Bethlehem, Part 2

December 17, 2013

“…Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea…” Matthew 2:1

There is a great deal of significance in the birthplace of Jesus. The meaning of the name Bethlehem is literally “house of bread.” The region surrounding Bethlehem was know for its fertile hills and valleys. A town named “house of bread” is a fitting place for Jesus to be born.

After Jesus miraculously fed 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish, He proclaimed to the crowd the spiritual application of the miracle. In John 6:35 Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.”

Just as Jesus provided for the people’s physical needs by providing bread for thousands, Jesus provides for our greatest spiritual needs. Anyone that comes to Jesus and believes in Him will receive the provision of forgiveness and eternal life. Our greatest need is a Savior and Jesus saves!

So, the Bread of Life was born in the “house of bread.” Be grateful today that Jesus satisfies your greatest needs. When you trust Jesus, He will satisfy you with His love, mercy, and grace, and will grant you a personal relationship with God. There’s nothing more important than that!


O Little Town of Bethlehem

December 16, 2013

“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 coming forth is from old, from ancient days.” Micah 5:2

Is there any significance to the birthplace of Jesus? We know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Is there any meaning related to that town or is it just an incidental place that is named in the Christmas story? I believe there is great significance in the place where Jesus was born and laid in a manger. Here are some reasons that Bethlehem is important:

  • It linked Jesus to the Davidic covenant.

God made a promise to David that someone from his lineage would reign as King forever (2 Sam. 7:12-16). That promise was fulfilled when Jesus, from the lineage of David (Matt. 1:1), was enthroned by His Father as King of kings forever (Phil. 2:8-11). Jesus is on the throne and He will be forever! The fact that Jesus was born in the same town as David (1 Sam. 16) helps us to see that connection.

  •  It fulfilled a specific prophecy.

In Micah 5:2, the Bible declared that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. The fact that this prophecy was made about 700 years before Jesus Christ was born is remarkable! It reminds us that God’s plan to send a Savior was in place before the foundations of the world and it has been executed perfectly by our omnipotent, omniscient God.

  •  It signaled that God uses seemingly insignificant things.

In Micah 5 there is a contrast between the mighty Jerusalem (v.1) with seemingly insignificant Bethlehem (v.2). The phrase “too little to be among the clans of Judah” means that Bethlehem couldn’t marshal 1,000 fighting men.  That’s what qualified a town to be numbered.  They were too small. So why would God choose to make Bethlehem the place where the Messiah would be born instead of the great city of Jerusalem? God loves to do the unexpected! He loves to use the weak, the powerless, and the insignificant. Why? So that He will get the glory! When great things happen in unimportant places through unimportant people, you look to the One who is accomplishing the great things!

When someone looks at a Rembrandt painting, they don’t praise the paint brush, they praise the skill and creativity of the artist. So it is with God. He gets glory as the Master Artist that works through all kinds of people and all kinds of places to bring a beautiful redemption to a lost and dying world.

God’s plan of salvation is still going forth and He still uses unexpected avenues. This Christmas think about your role. Just like God used the little town of Bethlehem to bring us a Savior, maybe He wants to use you to bring Jesus to someone else.


Tell Me the Story of Jesus

December 15, 2013

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

The Christmas story is an incredible story. Consider the following events in the Nativity narrative:

Jesus was expected.
Surrounding the birth of Jesus we see prophecies, angels bringing important messages, genealogies, and special stars in the sky. We also see faithful Jews who believed that God was true to His Word and would send a Messiah. They were on the edge of their seats, waiting. All of these things point to one major fact; the arrival of the Messiah was expected.

Jesus was protected.
We see that the Lord worked providentially to save His only Son and the only hope for the world from Herod’s wrath. He warned the wise men in a dream not to report the whereabouts of Jesus to the jealous king (Matt. 2:12). Also, an angel came to Joseph in a dream to command him to leave the country with his family (Matt. 2:13). During that time, Jesus was the fullness of God in helpless babe. His Father was going to make sure He was protected so that He could fulfill His purpose of seeking and saving the lost.

Jesus was neglected.
It’s remarkable that many Jews were not excited about the arrival of Jesus. Instead of excitement and a desire to seek out Christ for worship, the Bible says that all of Jerusalem was troubled (Matt. 2:3). Even worse, Herod was full of rage and murderous intentions. He wanted no rivals to his throne. So these people neglected the Messiah, sent from God.

Jesus was accepted.
The wise men worshiped and brought gifts of homage (Matt. 2:11). The shepherds glorified God when they heard the angelic host and saw the Christ-child (Luke 2:20). Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus, treasured and pondered all of the things she had experienced in her heart (Luke 2:19). Simeon and Anna rejoiced in the Temple when they encountered the Messiah (Luke 2:22-38). All of these people accepted Jesus as a gift sent from God. They experienced the first Christmas in its fullness.

The Christmas story is a remarkable story. It has intrigue, suspense, drama, excitement, sadness, joy, hope, and so much more. And it’s all true! Enjoy reading it, hearing Christmas sermons, and Christmas songs. Also, don’t forget to share this magnificent story!


Far as the Curse Is Found

December 14, 2013

“My eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” Luke 2:30-32

Simeon is described in the Bible as a righteous and devout man that lived in Jerusalem. He was waiting expectantly for the Messiah because God had revealed to him that before death he would see the Christ (Luke 2:26). When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple, the Spirit showed him that Jesus was that Messiah. His words of praise point to the reality that Jesus would make salvation available to all peoples, Jews and Gentiles.

This truth is good news for all. Since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, sin has corrupted all of creation, including humanity. We were born with a sin nature and have rebelled against God. Because of our sin we are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-3). The curse has ruined every corner of creation and every corner of our hearts. But Jesus has come! He came to bring salvation, life, and redemption. How far does his saving love reach? Far as the curse is found! Now that Jesus has taken on human flesh, died for our sins, and risen from the dead, anyone from any nation, tribe, or tongue can experience Jesus making them new! Hallelujah, what a Savior!


Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

December 13, 2013

“And she have birth to a firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

The Bible does not mention an innkeeper in the Christmas story, it simply mentions the fact that the inn was full. But the fact that most Christmas story productions feature an innkeeper is reasonable. Someone had to tell Mary and Joseph that the inn was full. I wonder if we sometimes communicate the same thing to the Lord; “There’s no room for You!” By “no room” I mean no room in our hearts. Sometimes our hearts can become so crowded with other things there’s no room to treasure Jesus. Thus the old Christmas hymn calls us to prepare Him room. Jesus is worthy of your whole heart. Jesus told us we are to love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our mind (Matt. 22:37).

Spend a few moments decluttering your heart today. Lay aside sins, misguided priorities, and anything else that lessens your affection for Christ. Then ask the Lord to make Himself at home in your heart. Ask Him to fill up your life. I promise that if you do this, Christmas will become much more meaningful! Prepare Him room! Worship Him with all of your heart!


Go Tell It on the Mountain

December 12, 2013

“And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this Child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.”  Luke 2:17-18

I love everything about the Christmas season! The songs, the food, the parties, the decorations, the special worship services, and the TV specials are all wonderful. But there’s a very important aspect of Christmas that we can sometimes neglect. What is it? Proclamation! The story of redemption of which the incarnation is a magnificent, crucial part is a story that needs to be told. The shepherds could not help but make known to many the events of the first Christmas. I believe we need to be like those shepherds, particularly as our society become more and more secular. We take it for granted that people in our community know the details or the importance of the incarnation. But I believe as the Christmas story is deemphasized, less and less people will know the real reason for the season. So, don’t be afraid to say the word “Christmas.” Use cards and parties and gifts to point people to Jesus. Explain to people why you are glad that Jesus left heaven and came to earth. Share your personal faith story. Get the word out!

Not only should we be concerned with our community, we should be concerned with the nations. Oswald J. Smith said, “We talk of the Second Coming, half the world has never heard of the first.” What a powerful and convicting quote! Imagine growing up in some distant corner of the world and never having access to the Gospel. Imagine never having heard the Christmas story. Imagine never having sung Away in a Manger. Yet that is the case with billions of people in our world. So, let’s double-down on our commitment to take the Gospel to a lost and dying world. Jesus has come! He has died for our sins! He has risen from the dead! Let’s pray, give, and go to proclaim that message to every nation for the glory of God!

 


Come and Worship

December 11, 2013

“Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”   Matthew 2:2

There are three responses to Jesus illustrated in the Christmas story:

  • Those who oppose the King           Matt. 2:3-8, 16-18

Herod was appointed King of Judea by the Roman Emperor Antony and the Roman senate. He had many adversaries among the Jews and in the Roman Empire. History records that even Queen Cleopatra was an enemy to Herod. He went to extraordinary lengths to maintain his throne so his reign was filled with political intrigue and murder. He had his wife’s brother drowned and made it look like an accident. He put his mother-in-law in chains because she made accusations against him to Cleopatra who in turn went to the Roman emperor. He had his wife executed because of alleged unfaithfulness.  He then had his mother-in-law executed. He then executed his sister’s husband. He had three of his sons murdered. Herod reigned by the sword. He brutally put down every challenge to his throne. So when some magi came from the east to pay homage to a new king, Herod’s response was predictable. Herod illustrates those in our world that actively oppose Jesus Christ.

  •  Those who ignore the King            Matt. 2:3-6

The Jewish religious leaders ignored King Jesus upon His arrival. When they were asked by Herod where the Messiah was supposed to be born, they quoted Micah 5:2. They knew he was to be born in Bethlehem. Yet there is no indication that they made an effort to verify that Jesus was the Messiah. They were 5 miles from the Son of God but did not go and see Him! This attitude illustrates many people’s response to Jesus. They know some things about Him but have no desire to know Him.

  •  Those who worship the King              Matt. 2:1, 9-12

The Magi diligently sought Christ, bowed before Him, and paid homage to Him with gifts. They understood what the king and the religious leaders missed; Jesus is the Messiah sent from God and is worthy of our praise, love, and devotion.

Which of these responses best describes you this Christmas season?