2 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.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
4 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.
5 And he shall be their peace... — Micah 5:2-5a (ESV)
The birth of Jesus is full of surprises. Mary, his mother, was a virgin who conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). Joseph, his earthly father was a poor carpenter, not a man of nobility (Matthew 13:55). At his birth, he was placed in a manger and visited by shepherds, hardly the surroundings and welcome one would expect for a long-awaited King (Luke 2:7&16). And where did all of this occur? In a small, relatively unknown town called 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. — Micah 5:2 (ESV)
None of this is a coincidence. It is not chance that Jesus was born to an insignificant family, in an insignificant town where he would be visited by unknown and insignificant shepherds. God could have done this any way He wanted. But this is how He wanted to do it. Bethlehem was exactly the town where God wanted His son to be born. Why? Because Bethlehem captures and demonstrates the heart of God.
Jesus left the glory of heaven to come to Bethlehem. If we want to know God, Bethlehem is where we must go. We won’t find him in a castle, but we will find him in the manger. We won’t find him among the rich, the noble, or the powerful, but we will find him among the poor and lowly. If we want to find God, we must go down, not up.
In the Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” we sing:
O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray,
cast out our sin, and enter in,
be born in us today!
We cannot ascend to God. He is too big, too high, and we are too small, too low. But God can come to us. God has come to us. This is grace. He has descended! This is what Christmas is all about!
As we eagerly walk through these final days leading to Christmas, may we remember Bethlehem. God chose to visit the insignificant. He chose a manger for his bed and shepherds for his first friends. This is where we meet God. This Christmas, may we gladly humble ourselves and embrace our own insignificance as we remember the words of the carol:
where meek souls will receive him still
the dear Christ enters in.
Oh Holy King, you stepped off of your throne
to be laid in a manger.
You took off your royal vestments
to don a crown of thorns.
How shameful that we might know this
and yet live as if it isn’t true.
How weak we are to buckle
at the siren’s call of other idols.
We must repent of our cowardice and disloyalty.
Forgive us, Father.
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today!
In a world that values self-promotion, side-hustles,
status, and ladder climbing, remind us that you do some of your best work with humble and ordinary.
We’ll never be enough to save ourselves, but
We’re enough because we’ve been saved by you.
Overwhelm us with contentment.
May we pray more than we fuss and grumble.
May we be faithful in the place and time you’ve set us.
May we lean into your created order.
May we learn to love your commands
which are for our good.
Let us learn from your humility, that we might be willing to plunge into the shadowy places for the sake of the Gospel.
Put us to work, oh Lord,
in your laboring to set the world to rights.
Oh, that we might be used as tools to nurture and restore as we build your kingdom here.