Sunday, December 7, 2008

"with th' angelic host proclaim, 'Christ is born in bethlehem'"

"'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 tniv)

we've had quite an adjustment getting used to living in big city chicago. suddenly i have a ring full of keys, a back concrete (instead of a backyard), quarters on hand for a variety of needs and a new ability to parallel park. i've come a long way from the tiny hamlet (smaller than a village!) where i was born, a place that probably won't even be named on many maps.

if the jews were to name the city out of which the Messiah would come, somehow i doubt that bethlehem would be their top choice. even micah the prophet describes it as "small among the clans of judah." wouldn't somewhere glorious like jerusalem make more sense? like so many choices that God made for the arrival of the Messiah, the humble town of bethlehem must have been a surprise.

the town of bethlehem has incredible significance, however. it was the birthplace of david, an iconic king for israel. to david was made the promise that a forever-king would come from his line. what better place for the forever-king to be born than david's hometown? because of God's message through micah, we have one more clue to verify the identify of Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus was born in bethlehem, just as God said he would be.

for myself, the fact that Jesus is born in such an "average joe" kind of place makes me realize all the more that God himself came to earth as a man. he was actually born, as a baby in a very specific place, the town of bethlehem. the promise that has been so long awaited has finally been fulfilled. when i join "th' angelic host" to sing about Christ's birth, i want to remember that God was physically born in a physical place so that we could see God himself in the flesh.

"when he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 'in bethlehem in judea,' they replied, 'for this is what the prophet has written . . .'" (matthew 2.4 tniv)

for the kids: talk about the place where you grew up. what kind of impact did that place have on you (your values, your occupation, your favorite sports team, etc.)? talk about what it would have meant for Jesus to be born in bethlehem. people didn't think too much of the town itself yet God chose to present Jesus to the world there. for a project, create a town scene. let your creativity run wild in terms of the shapes of the buildings. on a circle of craft foam or felt, glue various building outlines cut from other pieces of foam or felt. add a big star to point out the significance of this very special town.

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