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 men on earth
Bethlehem wasn’t where Mary and Joseph though they would give birth when they first got married. Most of us don’t travel 30 days or so to go sign in live as proof we exist. Nowadays most of us have access to a hospital or midwife in our immediate area.
But God knew.
God wanted there to be no question that Jesus came from David’s line, just as He has promised, so led Caesar to request a census of His people so history would record Joseph as one of David’s descendants.
So Bethlehem entered the stage as the setting for the miracle, get also not quite as one would expect.
We are used to online or phone reservations when we travel from home, so we know where we will end up to rest our heads at night.
Not so in biblical times.
Unless you had direct family in those days, it was first come, first serve.
Traveling with a very pregnant Mary would likely have slowed Joseph down, and resulted in no room anywhere in town.
Except a stable.
Not even a stable/barn by today’s standards, but likely a hole in the side of a hill, or a low built clay enclosure to keep a roof over the owner’s animals.
Not an ideal birthing setting. Hygiene alone, it must have been very off putting to think of delivering the Messiah into the world as its King in a stable.
There is also no record of a midwife, so both Mary and Joseph might likely have been very panicked, nervous and crying out to God as she began to give birth.
I can relate. And so could God.
Which is why Christ’s entry was designed so that the every day person would know God had been hearing each and every cry for help.
The Presence came as the very present we needed at Christmas:
Perfectly wrapped for the average Joe.
Perfectly planned as the Promise to come heralded through the Word and by the angels.
The Perfection of God now present in the work of His hands.
God with us.
Born in Bethlehem, announced by angels, snug in his earthly parents arms in a stable.
The Hope for all arrived with less fanfare than we would expect, yet surpassin every expectation we could have for this fulfillment of prophecy and promise.
While Bethlehem slumbered, its Messiah slipped into a stable and began to transform the world!
What a reason to offer Him fresh praise again this season.
In 1868, Pastor Phillips Brooks wrote the words to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” after seeing Israel first hand. His church organist Lewis Redner put the words to music.