O Little Town of Bethlehem

Introduction

Introduction

Devotional

O Little Town of Bethlehem

But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. (Micah 5:2)

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.  While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  (Luke 2:4-7)

Through the Incarnation, we are allowed a window into the heart of God revealed in the most potent and unique ways imaginable.  In the light of the countenance of Jesus’ face, all of reality is suddenly flipped on its head, and everything within and without us has no other choice but to be utterly and completely redefined.  Humanity longs for fame and power, and we will do almost anything to be a part of it, even if we can’t have it for ourselves.  We spend ourselves climbing the ladder of recognition and success, thinking that if we keep going, we will finally experience some sort of reward that will satisfy the ache and hunger that plagues us.  Yet, the irony is that the very thing we are longing for is found in the lowest places.

Meekness is best described as ‘strength restrained.’  In other words, a good example of meekness might be having all the power of the universe, yet choosing not to use it for personal gain or advantage (Colossians 1:15-20, Philippians 2:6-8).  The Incarnation of Jesus Christ is the very pinnacle of meekness.  Millions of dollars are spent each year by the press for the rights to take and publish photos of babies born to celebrity couples, and millions more by consumers to see those photos.  But God chose to come into the world as a baby born in a smelly stable to an unknown and somewhat scandalous couple in a tiny, unimportant town with only some shepherds and a few animals in line to see His face.  Even after the unthinkable events surrounding His birth, Jesus did not rest easy in a life of comfort, nor did He seek the praise and recognition that He deserved. Instead, though He had all the power of heaven at His tiny toddler fingertips, Jesus basically went into hiding for years with His earthly family just because of the evil intents in one little man’s heart (Matthew 2:13-15).  That singular story is the epitome of strength and power under restraint, revealing the meekness of Christ and the glory of Love Incarnate’s great patience and gentleness with humanity.

Yet His meekness didn’t end there, it went on and on and on – in every action, every word, every reaction, every silence, whether known or unknown. God walked among those He made, in the world He Himself created (Genesis 1, John 1:1-3, Proverbs 8:30), but chose to live in complete anonymity for most of His life. People passed God on the streets without so much as a nod in His direction, children sat next to Him in classes learning the commands that He gave Moses and the covenants He made with Abraham, and in the end, the leaders of those that were called ‘His most treasured possession’ (Deuteronomy 7:6, Psalm 135:4) utterly rejected God in the flesh, and sentenced Him to a death more disgraceful and unjust than any other in all of Eternity (Matthew 26:57-68).  The only Person in history that did not deserve to suffer suffered the most.  Jesus was despised and rejected, considered smitten by God and afflicted. His appearance was marred more than any man, like one from whom men hide their face in disgust (Isaiah 53:2-3).  He was spat upon as though He was nothing, and He did not say a word (Philippians 2:8, Isaiah 53:7).  With hands that He formed from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7, Colossians 1:16, John 1:3), His holy body was nailed to a dirty cross and put on display with thief and murderer alike (Matthew 27:33-54).  He could have said but one word at any point while He was on the earth and every knee would have bowed and all of Heaven would have come to His right hand (Matthew 26:53). But Love suffered long that we might come to know what greatness really is – Love stooped that low to make us great (Psalm 18:35).

If we truly ponder the infinite facets of the Word made flesh as He walked through the deserts of the Middle East and through the pages of history, we will fall to our knees before His glorious beauty.  If we really consider that this Person surrounded with scandal at His birth, born in the tiny town of Bethlehem where there was no room to be found, hidden in the mundane life of an unimportant family in Nazareth and Capernaum for most of His days, and crucified as a common criminal at His death is actually – Yahweh, God Himself, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the One by whom all things that we call “reality” are held together – then we are at once confronted with a Condescension so unfathomable and a Love so incomparable that surely all that we esteem and spend ourselves on in this age should appear as nothing but fading shadows in the light of something, or Someone much, much greater.  

The fact that the fullness of the Godhead was somehow contained by flesh, and Jesus actually walked around engaging with Creation and Creation didn’t blow up, is really insane if you stop to think about it. Thus, as we witness the Holy One of Isaiah 6 kneeling in servant’s garb to wash the feet of the one who was about to betray Him (John 13:5-11), or when we hear Him praying for mercy for those at the foot of the Cross mocking with seething hatred the very One who gave them mouths with which to speak (Luke 23:33-49)… in the light of His glorious meekness and devastating patience, how can we then stand and demand anything for ourselves?

Yet, we do.  We think we are entitled to everything from personal possessions, to respect and decency from others, to even things as small and unimportant as our own opinions.  And if just one of those things is challenged – if we are dishonored or rejected in any way, if we have to wait too long in the checkout line at the grocery store, if the government decides to do something with our tax dollars that we don’t agree with, if our circumstances aren’t the way we desire them to be, or if God doesn’t do what we expect Him to do – how do we respond? 

Oh Jesus, let us never choose to condemn You in order to justify ourselves.  Help us find the way to the lowest places.  And in our arrogance when we think we have found them, we beseech You, take us lower still. Give to us humble hearts that exult in You and You alone.  

Holy Spirit, give to each person reading these words right now the gift of revelation and the knowledge of God in the face of Christ.  Illuminate their hearts and help them see Jesus as He truly is, so that His worth and glory would shape the entirety of their reality.  Create in Your Church a brokenhearted and humble love that fills the earth with the fragrance of Christ.  May You reign, Jesus, in complete supremacy, that our hearts would be full and overflowing.  Lead us to the place where we cannot find a posture low enough to exclaim Your infinite worth. Bring us to our knees and let our mouths proclaim with heaven’s chorus, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive all power and glory and honor and praise!”

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 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.