As for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, seemingly insignificant among the clans of Judah – from you a king will emerge who will rule over Israel on my behalf, one whose origins are in the distant past.
~The Prophet Micah, Micah 5:2
The little town of Bethlehem has a significant place in history. The small town surrounded by grain fields is where God chose to fulfill his promise. He would send His son, whose “origins are in the distant past,” to be born in insignificant little Bethlehem.
The name Bethlehem has a special meaning. It means, “the house of bread.” It is proper that Jesus would be born in “the house of bread”. He is the Bread of life.
Once God’s people were hungry as they were lost in the desert, He fed them with manna from heaven. Now as we walk around this world, we cannot be sustained by its shadows. We must eat of the bread of life.
A preacher by the name of Charles Spurgeon penned these words: ” In that blessed Bread of Heaven, made of the bruised body of our Lord Jesus and baked in the furnace of His agonies, we find a blessed food! There is no food like Jesus to the desponding soul or to the strongest saint! The very meanest of the family of God goes to Bethlehem for bread—and the strongest man, who eats strong meat, goes to Bethlehem for it, too.”
God’s family is invited to eat, to be nourished by the bread of life.
Our hope for you today is that you realize that there is bread that nourishes your soul and that it is free!
The beloved Christmas hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is playing in the background of this devotion. In 1865, the tumultuous year that ended the Civil War and the life of President Lincoln through assassination, the idea of peace and quiet was an elusive dream to Americans. That year, the Rev. Phillips Brooks took a trip to Israel and saw Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, which inspired him to pen this Christmas hymn. In contrast to some other Christmas carols that emphasize the boisterous glory of God as seen in the grand chorus of angels, Rev. Brooks wrote about the tranquility of Jesus’ birth, and how insignificant it was to the rest of the world.
As you read the stanzas of this hymn remember to focus on the final verse which was written as a prayer.
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 the holy birth,
and praises sing to God the King,
and peace to all on earth.
How silently, how silently
the wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him still
the dear Christ enters in.
O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin, and enter in;
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel!
With much love, The Downings