O little town of 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

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question we must ask when we think about the Christmas story is where was Bethlehem? Bethlehem was a middle of no-where town, outside Jerusalem, at the far end of the Roman Empire. It was a place where nothing ever happened. It was pretty much ignored. All the important people were in Jerusalem down the road. No-one paid any attention to Bethlehem. And yet God saw Bethlehem. There is encouragement for you today if you feel the world has overlooked you. You have seen your friends get jobs, get partners, get married and you are still living with your parents. You feel life has passed you be. But know this. God sees you. God cares for you. He has not overlooked you. He has not forgotten you.

question we must ask when we think about the Christmas story is where was Bethlehem? Bethlehem was a middle of no-where town, outside Jerusalem, at the far end of the Roman Empire. It was a place where nothing ever happened. It was pretty much ignored. All the important people were in Jerusalem down the road. No-one paid any attention to Bethlehem. And yet God saw Bethlehem. There is encouragement for you today if you feel the world has overlooked you. You have seen your friends get jobs, get partners, get married and you are still living with your parents. You feel life has passed you be. But know this. God sees you. God cares for you. He has not overlooked you. He has not forgotten you.

And it was on the outskirts of this middle of nowhere town where we find the shepherds, watching over their flock by night. This was something they would have done every night for years. It was dull and monotonous work. And yet this night everything was going to change. Israel as a whole had been in a 400 year period of silence from the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi. The people kept waiting for the promised Messiah, but it had been 400 years without a word from God, so doubts were starting to creep in. And yet this night everything was going to change. There is encouragement for us today if we feel God has been silent for us. If we feel distant from Him. He has not given up on us. He has not forgotten His promises. He will fulfil all that He has said He will do. We may have to wait longer than we would like, but His timing is perfect. He always keeps His promises. I love CS Lewis’ analogy in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, where the Narnians had been stuck in a perpetual bleak dreary snow season, always winter but never Christmas. But Aslan was on the move! At just the right moment God will show you what He has been doing. He has not forgotten you.

Bethlehem means “House of Bread”. Jerusalem means city of peace. There is peace on earth because the Prince of peace was born outside the city of peace. Jesus, the living bread, had come to those who were outsiders, who had no peace. He came to bring peace to us all. Not just those who found themselves in the city of peace. It is significant that Jesus was born outside the walls of the city of peace, for He had come to bring peace to those who were cut off from God. He had come so that we could fear not. Maybe as you reflect on the message of Christmas this year Christmas will be the time you come in from the outside and enter into God’s peace. Peace from anxiety. Peace from striving. Peace from sleepless nights. Peace from heartache. Peace from the nightmares. Peace from worry. Peace from fear. Peace from doubt. Peace from depression. We can have peace for the bread of life came outside the city of peace, offering out the hope of reconciliation to outsiders like us.

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