26 Dec 2022

Unto Us Is Born

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)

There are years when I feel compelled to write about Christmas…at Christmas. So unusual, right?

As enjoyable as writing these pieces every week is the interaction I get from readers. I like getting to know some of you and realizing that we are all very similar in many ways. I am thinking this week very, very much about the bittersweet nature of this holiday. The original story, from the New Testament, has ups and downs.

Just like our individual lives.

Just today, the day before Christmas Eve, I found out that a friend’s husband died yesterday, as they were sitting on the couch looking at photos from last Christmas, on his phone. They were talking about how much they were looking forward to this weekend. His phone fell out of his hand and he died instantly.

As if we needed reminding that we live in a fallen world. A world wracked by death, sadness, torture, hopelessness, and a thousand other spiritual and physical maladies.

But everything in our world is always swirling around together, all the time. With death there is also birth. Sadness gives way to joy, or vice versa.

Hopelessness, though, has only one antidote: the Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 9:6 speaks to this, and has relevance for this season:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

In Isaiah 7 of course, we read the famous Virgin Birth passage. It’s amusing (in a way) to hear critics of the Bible and the Christian faith say things like, “Christians claim that Micah 5:2 refers to the birth of the Messiah, specifically, Jesus Christ.” They don’t believe that, and don’t want you to, either.

But this remarkable prophecy, so appropriate for us to meditate on at Christmas, clearly refers to the birth of the Savior, but in a tiny, obscure hamlet. Not Jerusalem. Not in a mansion. The God-Man, Emmanuel, did not “make a splash” when He was born.

In Bethlehem!

I’ve been there and if one can set aside the sometimes-schlocky tourist merchandise and the fact that the malevolent PLO controls the town, spiritual truths emerge and wrap us in the knowledge that God came here 2,000 years ago.

The famous Church of the Nativity sits atop the traditional birthplace of Jesus, a small grotto now full of Catholic symbols and icons. Still, you can make out enough to see in your mind’s eye a very modest shelter for a family from Nazareth.

I’ve written before a couple times about seeing modern shepherds, riding camels, making their way along the highway from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. This is one of the most fascinating aspects of Israel today. Everything in the country, the past, present, and future—all swirl together. A trip to Bethlehem in 2022 would also include shepherds living much as they did 2,000 years ago.

And the knowledge of the birth of our precious, merciful Savior pointing to His soon-return. His first coming is simply a precursor to His Second Coming, which will launch the Final Phase of History. I can’t wait, frankly. I know you feel the same way.

The prophecy from Micah, a prophet contemporary with Isaiah and Jeremiah, is just a wisp of a story; a small line in a small book (the “Minor Prophets”, Ha!). Yet it is extraordinary in its implications. About 700 years before Jesus is born in Bethlehem, it is predicted He will be born in that afterthought of a town.

What are the odds of that? Astronomical is the answer.

But that’s how our Word of God is; astonishing in its predictive prophecy. Relevant, always.

Because we are all basically alike, with the same general problems, I know some of you are suffering mightily this Christmas season. Maybe a relative has just passed suddenly. You might be fearful of your financial situation. A relationship with your kids, or a friend might be weighing heavy on you.

Whatever it is, take a few minutes and find a quiet place where your mind and heart can rest. Then open your Bible and read Micah 5:2 and think long and hard about God calling that event long before it happened.

He’s got your problems covered!

Knowing that, give yourself a gift this Christmas. For 24 hours, put away your fear and anxiety. Put your anger about a situation on a shelf. Read Micah 5:2 and thank God for the gift of salvation, peace of mind, and an eternity that will know nothing about pain of any kind.

Merry Christmas!