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Bethlehem

Matthew 2:1-6 

 

 Matthew 2:1-6 NASB "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, [2] 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.' [3] And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. [4] And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born. [5] And they said to him, 'In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet, [6] 'And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler, Who will SHEPHERD My people Israel.'"

 Today, the Bethlehem candle reminds us that the Incarnation–God becoming man–this wonderful theological event that we celebrate in this season, was a historical event that took place at a historic location. In verse 3, the chief priests and the scribes were referring to Micah 5:2 that says,  "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."  (NASB)

 In 1 John 1:1-2, John wrote, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life-- [2] and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.”  To John, the birth of Jesus was a historical fact that he verified with his own eyes and hands.

 In his gospel, John also wrote about the Incarnation, he wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] He was in the beginning with God. [3] All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. [4] In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. [5] And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:1-5  NASB) The fact that the darkness could not comprehend the light does not do away with its brilliance. 

 Focus with me on this great historical fact–God became man and dwelt among us.  In John 1:14, John wrote, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” 

 That single truth shines brightly, like a candle in the dark–God became man!  Relish the thought, celebrate the thought!  God bridged the distance between Himself and sinful man–He came to dwell among us. 

 During this season the grand truth emerges–God became man to dwell among us. And He did it in Bethlehem–an insignificant city–according to Micah, the “small among the clans of Judah.”

 There is a theme throughout scripture that is illustrated in the physical location of the Incarnation–the theme is that greatness comes out of humility.  This theme is more substantial than an underdog emerging victorious–it is more than Rocky winning the championship belt or the glass slipper fitting Cinderella’s foot.  The scriptural theme suggests that the only way to real greatness is the path of humility.  Jesus said, “But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.” (Matthew 19:30 NASB) Peter would later write, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” (1 Peter 5:6 KJV)

 Jesus also warned against self-exaltation.  Speaking of the Pharisees, he said,  "Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; [6] they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; [7] they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them 'Rabbi.'  [8] But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. [9] And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. [10] Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ. [11] The greatest among you will be your servant. [12] For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." (Matthew 23:5-12 NASB)

 In humility, Jesus was born.  He did not arrive in a flaming chariot from the sky with a trumpet announcing his arrival.  Instead, he was born in a humble town to humble parents.  Born in a humble location–a barn and placed in a humble bed–a manger.   This humility was not a path to greatness–it was His greatness.

 In his book, Humility, Andrew Murray writes, "We must learn of Jesus, how He is meek and lowly of heart.  He teaches us where true humility takes its rise and finds its strength--the knowledge that it is God who works all in all, that our place is to yield to Him in perfect resignation and dependence, in full consent to be and to do nothing of ourselves.  This is the life Christ came to reveal and to impart--a life in God that comes through death to sin and self."   (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 Human nature tells us to toot our own horn and highlight our greatness, while the scripture teaches us to follow Christ’s example of humility.  He would not have us flying around in helicopters with our name on the tail fin or living in penthouses flaunting our greatness.  Instead, He calls us to live in humility, shunning prideful flamboyance. 

 James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall exalt you.” (ASV)  Too many people walk into the presence of God with pride, as if God owes them something, demanding that He follow their will, and walk away humbled, with their heads hung low as they discover God doesn’t take orders from them.  If they would have only walked into his presence as they walked away, they could have walked away as they walked up.   Only when we acknowledge that we are nothing is their room for us to become something special.

 Paul wrote: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, [6] who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. [8] And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, [10] that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, [11] and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philip. 2:5-11 NASB)

 Yes, Jesus will be exalted in the end, but only because of his humble attitude that Paul teaches us to emulate. In his book, Divine Intimacy, Vol 2, Father Gabriel writes, "All the injustices, accusations insults, misunderstandings and failures which we encounter in life are means to this; and by accepting them for the love of Christ, we open ourselves to the gift of his divine humility, and enter into the mystery of him who emptied himself for the glory of the Father and the salvation of mankind.  By following Christ, humbled even to death on the cross, we take our place among those who give glory to God and help to save their brothers.  Even the most stubborn are conquered and vanquished by humility."  (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 As you watch the second candle flickering this morning, remember that one day Jesus will return victoriously, but his first coming was in humility.  The only way we can share in his victory is to enter into it humbly.  He was born in Bethlehem, the humblest of cities—that changed human history one star-filled night when the sounds of a crying baby escaped from a barn and demanded the attention of Kings.

 

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