Posts Tagged With: Merry Christmas

O Little Town of Bethlehem

bethlehem

Bethlehem. 

Why in the world did God choose to have His Son born in Bethlehem?

He could have chosen Jerusalem. The Holy City was then home to the Temple, and the epicenter of all things religious. For that matter, He could have chosen Rome, Athens, Corinth, Alexandria, or any number of major metropolitan centers of ancient world influence.

Why in the world did God choose Bethlehem?

Well, for the answer to that singularly significant question, we have to go all the way back to the beginnings of the Bible. There you will read this in Genesis 14:18, about Abraham and his first meeting with the mysterious Melchizedek, the king of Salem, Shalom, Peace. Arguably the first reference in the Bible to what would later become the City of Peace, Jeru-salem

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.

Hmmm. What were they doing, Abraham and Melchizedek? Certainly not celebrating Communion with that bread and wine. And more to the point, What does this baffling bit of trivia have to do with Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem?

On the surface, nothing. Dig a little deeper, it means everything.

The backstory of their tête-à-tête is straightforward and rather simple: Returning from a period of conflict over the capture of his nephew Lot, Abraham now craved a much-needed period of peace. So did Melchizedek. In order to establish an unbreakable bond of peace, in order to confirm an indestructible contract of commitment to one another, in order to seal a deal of an abiding agreement of love and loyalty to one another, Abraham and Melchizedek broke bread together.

The breaking of bread was in biblical times, and is even today in the Middle East, the culturally-binding symbol of a relationship of love, loyalty, and commitment between two parties.

Breaking bread. The sharing of the very sustenance of life with one another, the symbolism of which binds the two lives together in a mutual pledge of life, love, loyalty, and peace.

It is no wonder that bread is specifically mentioned in the Bible 448 times. 

It is no wonder that in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us specifically to pray for our daily bread, a regular reminder of the unbreakable relationship of life, loveloyalty, and peace that we now share with God Himself.

It is no wonder that when Jesus fed the five thousand, He broke bread with them.

It is no wonder that Jesus referred to Himself as “the bread of life,” adding in John 8, 

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever. 

“Forever.” An unbreakable bond indeed!

It is no wonder that on the night before the crucifixion, as Jesus shared one last supper with His disciples, He broke bread with them.

It is no wonder that after Jesus was nailed to the cross, as the body of the one who called Himself “the bread of life” was beaten and broken for us, that it can now be said of us who love Him, 

We have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us (Romans 5:1).

It is no wonder that the first committed Christ-followers (according to Acts 2) broke bread from house to house. 

Bread: the God-given, Bible-driven symbol of two persons who desperately long to establish between them an unbreakable bond of life, love, loyalty, and peace.

So it is no wonder that God chose “His only begotten Son” to be born not in Jerusalem, not in Rome or Athens, not in Corinth or Alexandria, nor in any major metropolitan city of great influence. No.

When God sent His Son, He chose to have Him be born in the humble hamlet of Bethlehem. Or as it is called in Hebrew, Beit Lehem, which in English reads, “the house of (Care to make a guess?) bread.”

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This is just one of the five Scriptural snapshots of Christmas that we shared with our beloved Safe Haven family last Saturday night. You can hear all five in this podcast by clicking HERE.

From my heart to yours, a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Mary, Did You Know???

mangerMary’s was NOT an easy life. 

Consequently, she is a woman whom I greatly admire. As should we all.

Just imagine what it must have been like to walk in her sandals, or to ride on her donkey.

At the time of the angelic visitation announcing her miraculous pregnancy, Mary was assured that her baby was the vital part of God’s plan of salvation. Not only for her, but for the whole world.

Yet we know that very late in her pregnancy, Joseph and Mary were forced to make the arduous journey from Nazareth-Bethlehem,60 miles as the crow flies. A harrowing 3 to 5 day journey under the best of conditions into what was for all intents and purposes a different country far removed from Nazareth geographically, culturally, and demographically. More like 5 to 7 days considering Mary’s condition, walking or on camelback, through treacherous terrain, exposed to the elements and the ever-present threat of bandits, all to register for yet another Roman tax.

This poor couple living, as we learn a little later in the Gospel accounts, barely above the poverty line, having even what little they had plundered by their corrupted government officials.

Mothers, think back to what it was like when you gave birth to your firstborn child – the fears, the insecurities, the feelings of inadequacy. Now imagine that when you did give birth, it was not in the clinical cleanliness of a hospital room or birthing center. Imagine you were in a cave, dark and alone, unsanitary to the extreme, no nurse, doctor, or midwife to help you, and you are all of 13 or 15 years old, in what was essentially a foreign country, away from your family, with only your fiancé to help you.

Add to all of that the political climate of the world Mary was living in – a world of crushing oppression and a brutal and barbaric military occupation. One that would soon force the holy family to flee to Egypt in the wake of Herod’s maniacal and murderous attempt to kill the baby Jesus in His crib.

Mary was completely obedient to and submissive to the will of God for her life, whatever that might be. She stepped out in obedience to God, and yet everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

Which begs this question:

Why do we expect that if we are indeed obedient to the will of God, everything should go right for us, go good for us? That our obedience buys us a trouble-free existence?

Mary would beg to differ. So would Abraham.

As the OT begins, Abraham obediently followed God’s call to leave his country, his extended family, his friends, and his home, everything to travel to a Promised Land that he had never even seen before.

While en route, his beloved dad died. No sooner had he settled in that land, a severe famine hit the land and down to Egypt he was forced to go. Welcome to the Holy Land, Abraham.

Abraham did everything right, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It happened to Abraham.

And as the NT begins, the exact same thing happened to Mary. 

Maybe, just maybe, it has happened to us. Or will happen to us. Unexpected, uninvited, and unwanted trials and tribulations may well be proof-positive that you and I are right smack dab in the middle of God’s will. Unexpected, uninvited, and unwanted trials and tribulations may well be the precursors to God’s richest blessings.

So don’t despair, no matter how rough your road. God never abandoned Abraham; He surely never abandoned Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. And we can be sure that He will never abandon us.

The pathway to God’s blessing is often strewn with boulders. Speed-bumps abound. But as we learn from this Christmas story, with Mother Mary showing us the way, God’s blessings always win out in the end.

Just one of the snapshots of Christmas from last Saturday night’s Safe Haven Christmas celebration. The podcast of the full five of these snapshots can be heard by clicking HERE.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

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