O LITTLE BETHLEHEM...
"O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie" So goes the famous popular Christmas carol sung in many churches during the Christmas time heralding the birth of the Saviour. For those with a flair for history, this touching hymn was penned by Rector Phillips Brooks (1835-1903) of Philadelphia, in 1868, following a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He was inspired by the view of Bethlehem from the hills of Palestine, especially at night time.
Is there something significantly 'Big' about 'little' Bethlehem? Very much! Consider this befuddling verse which affirms this truth, "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah.Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past" (Mic. 5:2 NLV).
This verse acquires a ring of intrigue, when you consider the fact that King David--the greatest of all Jewish kings--was already born in Bethlehem (Ruth 2:1, 4:13-17/I Sam.16) nearly 300 years before Micah of Moresheth (in around 715 BC) called this historic village, occupying a significant place in Israel’s history, as an insignificant, little one. Is there any doubting David’s unique place in both the historical as well as the spiritual realm of the nation of Israel? Was not David a benchmark for other Judean kings, who followed him (2 Chro.17:3/28:1/34:2) in the matter of obedience to the Almighty?
So how in the name of logic, could Scripture mention Bethlehem as only 'a small village' when it actually could 'boast' of being the birthplace of such a spiritual and a historical giant like David? It ought to have been at par with Jerusalem (from where the Judean kings, including David ruled) in terms of both spiritual and historical importance. For an answer, welcome to the 'Spiritual laws of relativity'!
The greatest king of Israel pales in comparison with the Eternal King of kings, who was going to be born in Bethlehem. Period. This Judean village would be 'small' in the Omniscient One’s sight, only till the 'Greatest of them all' arrived. It is the Saviour’s birth in Bethlehem, which would enhance its stature in the heavenly sphere and not anything else.
Now Christian, are you taking pride in only your special, godly heritage? Good as it is, to have noble forefathers of evangelical or pastoral calling, be more proud of the fact that Saviour was 'born' in your heart, the day you accepted Him, as your Saviour. Your status in God’s sight is not based on the great 'David-like' grandparents of yours who preceded you, but whether Christ has come into your life or not!!! For that’s all that matters in the eyes of the Almighty, who set the ball of 'Redemption plan' rolling on the First Christmas.
Christian, are you an insignificant 'little Bethlehem' in your neighbourhood? Not many heads turn, when you walk by, right? Take heart, the moment Christ was 'born' in your heart, you became a precious jewel in the Creator’s treasure house. Speaking of riches and treasures (taken literally also), is not Bethlehem filling the coffers of Israel/Palestine today, by generating handsome foreign tourism revenue?
When you go to a museum, where items of royal patronage are preserved, what articles do you see normally displayed there? A watch, a pen, a turban? Are they not items of common usage? What then is so special about them, that they are priceless? Answer is as simple as it is profound. They belong to a king! Ditto with a Christian (Jer. 9:23/I Cor. 3:16), he/she belongs to the king. Nothing more, nothing less!
Why did the Messiah make a 'touchdown' in Bethlehem in his 'Operation salvation'? For those spiritually starving for salvation, where else, could the ‘Bread of life’ (Jn.6:58) which gives eternal life, be born other than the place known as ‘Bread’-Bethlehem in Jewish language means ‘Bread’? Prophecy, as one Bible scholar correctly said, "is nothing but History written in advance."
Ever wondered why Old Testament Scriptures abound with Messianic Prophecies? On His one solitary life, hinged the entire salvation of mankind! Lest the rationalists should attribute the virgin birth (Isa.7:14), place of His birth (Mic.5:2), atoning death on the cross (Psa.22:16/Isa. 53), resurrection (Psa.16: 10-11, Acts 2:28) and His victorious ascension (Psa.68:18/Eph. 4:18) to a sheer accident or coincidence, the Heavenly Father in infinite wisdom had everything written down in 'black and white,' several centuries before those landmark events even occurred.
Last Christmas, the womenfolk of our church went to a reasonably distant Departmental store to buy gifts for the widows/orphans/Sunday school children of our Church. When, they came back, it dawned on one Sister that she had forgotten her purse containing many valuables in the parking lot of a huge, busy commercial complex. Praying profusely, the entire 'Purchase committee' rushed back to that hustling, bustling area after full one hour (traffic snarls, you see) where an unguarded purse has as much chance of remaining unpicked as an ice-cube would have of not melting in a fiery furnace. Hallelujah, they found it safe and secure! Now, if I were to share this thrilling account with a rationalist, giving all glory to the prayer-answering God, (you guessed it right), he would attribute this 'miraculous recovery' to sheer 'coincidence or luck.' But ponder for a moment, if this entire account had been foretold and documented in a book, say 20 years ago, would he still attribute this true story to a mere coincidence? He would have no other option but to accept it as a Divine act! Ditto the same, with several of the Messianic prophecies, including the one about the place of His birth. Bravo, Bethlehem...
Yet another significance of fulfilment of prophecies is that it makes us take the remaining unfulfilled prophecies of God, specifically related to Christ’s Second Coming... seriously. Even in the human realm, if we have a friend who, time and again, sticks to his word, won’t we take his other promises seriously because of his spotless track record of keeping up his word, always?
Similarly, if the Word (yet another glorious name of our Lord ... Jn.1:1) has time and again, kept up His word, won’t He keep His word regarding His Second Coming too? Among others, what are the two distinct signs of recent times that trumpet the truth about the last trumpet call signaling the Church rapture (I Cor.15:52/2Thess.4:16)? Consider this verse, "When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s days" (Matt. 24:37). What two evils conspicuously marked Noah’s time? Violence and corruption (Gen.6:12-13)! Do I need to furnish proof to substantiate these plain facts? Does not media overflow with accounts of terror strikes, feudal killings in real and reel life, and scams?
Some Irrefutable Proofs
It is news nowadays, only if there is no scam in 24 hours! So, will the lowly Bethlehem Babe return soon as a righteous King to set right all the wrongs... bringing order where there is disorder, peace where peace has gone to pieces, morality where there is immorality, hope where there is despair, joy where there is sorrow? You can take Him at His Word... "Yes, I am coming soon!" Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20).
Are you alert? Have you alerted others? Gospel of this era is not only that Christ came, but that He is also coming again... soon! So, even as we sing, "O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray," for all we know in a twinkle of an eye, we may be having our mid-air rendezvous with the Lord. This expectation ought to make this year’s Christmas, one of added jubilation, right? Certainly! Merry 'alert' Christmas, to one and all!