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O Little Town of Bethlehem

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 of old,
    from ancient days.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
    to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.

Micah 5:2, 4-5a

Why does Micah call our attention to Bethlehem?

Jesus is born in Bethlehem – the fulfillment of prophecy.

At the appointed time, God tapped Caesar Augustus on the shoulder so that he would call for the census.  Joseph, being of the house and lineage of David, had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  It was an inconvenient time since Mary was with child.  It was a hard journey for a pregnant lady, some 80 miles. All of this was to fulfill the prophecy that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem!

Bethlehem is the City of David.

In Matthew we read the lineage of Jesus, the son of David, the son of Abraham.  David was born in Bethlehem!  “Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah.” (1 Samuel 17:12)

When the angel came to Mary, he said, “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:31 – 33)  

 Bethlehem means “house of bread.” 

Jesus declared, “Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. …Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”  (John 6:32-33, 35)

Quote by Angelus Silesius

Bethlehem was  home to generations of shepherds and the sacred temple flocks. 

Lambs were specifically raised in this area for the sacrificial system – the first-born male lambs were considered sacred. Generations of shepherds had tended flocks on these hills.  Notice how Micah refers to the coming King as one who “shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord.”

Jesus is both our Shepherd and the Lamb!

For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

Revelation 7:17

God is the master of details! The greatest King of All would arrive in the tiny, insignificant town of Bethlehem, the city of shepherds, the city of sacrificial lambs, the city of bread.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above
While mortals sleep the angels keep their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together, proclaim thy holy birth.
And praises sing to God the king, and peace to men on earth.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

Phillip Brooks, 1868

As you pray today, thank God for the holy Child of Bethlehem. Thank Him for being the master of details – not just in the life of Jesus, but in your life as well. Ask God to open your eyes to all the ways that He is both Lamb and Shepherd to you.

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