Christ Was Born in Bethlehem
"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2)
Where was Christ born? That should be an easy question to answer, but I recently heard comments from so-called Bible scholars from great universities, including Harvard, the oldest in the land. Perhaps it was only one of them that had that idea, I hope so, but he thought that Jesus was born somewhere else.
I am reminded of the young lad in Sunday school who was asked where Jesus had been born. He quickly answered in some such way as this: "Allentown." The teacher was shocked. "No. Didn't you know it was Bethlehem?" The young lad was no doubt somewhat somewhat crestfallen, but he came back with: "Well, I knew it was somewhere in Pennsylvania!" I was recently in that part of the world. There are several interesting towns there: Emmaus, Nazareth, and Bethlehem, among them.
Where do think the so-called Bible scholar thinks that Christ was born? Nazareth. Well, it is true that He was brought up there. Any Sunday school child should know that, but Christ certainly wasn't born there!
We find the first Bible mention of Bethlehem in Genesis 35. Let us look at that passage. (vv.16-20)
Gene 35:16 (KJS) And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour. 17 And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. 18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. 19 And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which [is] Bethlehem. 20 And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that [is] the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day.
Then we come to the great story of Ruth, the Moabitess ancestress of Christ. (Ruth 1:1, 16-17, 19; 2:1, 13, 17)
Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem-judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. . . .And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, [or] to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people [shall be] my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, [if ought] but death part thee and me. . . . So they two went until they came to Bethlehem. And it came to pass, when they were come to Bethlehem, that all the city was moved about them, and they said, [Is] this Naomi? . . . And Naomi had a kinsman of her husband's, a mighty man of wealth, of the family of Elimelech; and his name [was] Boaz. . . . Then she said, Let me find favour in thy sight, my lord; for that thou hast comforted me, and for that thou hast spoken friendly unto thine handmaid, though I be not like unto one of thine handmaidens. . . . So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley.
In I Samuel 16:4-5, 12 we get our first glimpse of another famous ancestor of Jesus, David. Let us also look at II Sam. 23:14-16.
1 Sam 16:4 (KJS) And Samuel did that which the LORD spake, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably? 5 And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the LORD: sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and called them to the sacrifice. . . . 1Sam 16:12 (KJS) And he sent, and brought him in. Now he [was] ruddy, [and] withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this [is] he.
2 Sam 23:14 (KJS) And David [was] then in an hold, and the garrison of the Philistines [was] then [in] Bethlehem. 15 And David longed, and said, Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which [is] by the gate! 16 And the three mighty men brake through the host of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that [was] by the gate, and took [it], and brought [it] to David: nevertheless he would not drink thereof, but poured it out unto the LORD.
We have already looked at Micah 5:2, our text, but let us once again examine this verse.
"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
Turning to the New Testament: Matthew tells us of Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus in Chapter 2, verses 1-6.
Matt 2:1 (KJS) Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard [these things], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, [in] the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
Luke, who in Chapter 2 gives perhaps the most beloved account of Christ's birth, mentions Bethlehem in verses 4 and 15.
Luke 2:4 (KJS) And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
Luke 2:15 (KJS) And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
Finally, John should be quoted. Let us look at John 7:40-42.
John 7:40 (KJS) Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. 41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?
Let us ask ourselves: What is the most important element of the worship of Christ, at this time of the year, or any other time? Do you have in mind any word that describes this most important element or aspect of worship? We hear a good deal about worship, these days, and that is appropriate, but what does it really mean? Someone who has studied the matter for a long time gave his answer. In just a moment we will see if you agree with it!
First, we know that many people think of worship as singing lively choruses with a praise team leading. Now that can be a very meaningful experience to many, although some of the older Christians may think that singing of the old hymns is more to their taste in worship. Certainly there are many Scriptures in which worship is commanded. No doubt a number come readily to your mind.
"Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. (I Chron. 16:29)
"O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; fear before him, all the earth." (Ps. 96:9)
"Fear God, and give glory to him; . . . and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." (Rev. 14:7)
Have you decided what the most important element of worship is? Obedience is the answer I recently heard given. Does not that make good sense? You may remember Jesus' parable of the two sons (Matt. 21:28). The two were individually asked to go work in their father's vineyard. One said he would, and didn't. The other said that he would not, but he thought better of it, and obeyed.
What did Samuel say to Saul: "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." (I Sam. 15:22)
A family in Philadelphia found out that a temporary guest (and I think it was the poet, Walt Whitman) was to have a birthday during his stay. Delighted, they planned for over a week to celebrate it [the birthday]. They cooked large quantities of goodies. They arranged lovely decorations. They bought little gifts for him and each other. The entire house was in confusion for days before the birthday. Finally the day came. Guests arrived. Gift were exchanged.
A little child asked, "Mother, where is the man whose birthday it is?" They found him in an upstairs bedroom. They had forgotten to invite him. Have many -- could it be most? -- in this country and elsewhere who are supposedly celebrating Christmas, have forgotten to invite the One whose birthday it is?
Early one Christmas morning a little girl had gotten up and was dressing. As she did so she was singing, "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you." Her mother was downstairs making breakfast. "The dear little thing is all confused," thought the mother. "She's gotten Christmas mixed up with someone's birthday." Then she listened more carefully and realized that she herself was the one who was confused: The little girl was singing, "Happy birthday, dear Jesus, happy birthday to you."