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O Little Town

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Be thinking about this: What is something important to you about Christmas that isnt necessarily part of the traditional story? says the effects of righteousness are peace and trust. Righteousness is available to us because of the gospel work that began at Christmas. OR Christmas is the only time my family gets together, so Christmas reunites my family.

A little boy and girl were singing their favorite Christmas carol in church the Sunday before Christmas. The boy concluded “Silent Night” with the words, “Sleep in heavenly beans.”

“No,” his sister corrected, “not beans, peas.”

Micah 5:2
Micah 5:2–5 ESV
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. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace. When the Assyrian comes into our land and treads in our palaces, then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princes of men;
Matthew 1:18–25 HCSB
The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.” When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.
O that little town. So insignificant and small. Just a village really.
No real commerce
No grand buildings
No great population - Not even large enough to send the customary 1000 men to battle.
There is meaning in its name: House of bread. Fitting birthplace for the Bread of Life.
Of course, the father of the great king David, Jesse, was from Bethlehem. As was that king. But Bethlehem would be honored for another King...
‘From you shall come forth for me… whose coming forth is from old’
For a human, coming forth would be being born. That fits.
Humans are not said to be ‘from ancient days’. Reminiscent of John trying to explain how Jesus existed before Him even though He came after John. Because He was from antiquity, everlasting, eternal, Micah said he was from ancient days.
The timing of the Messiah’s birth is hinted at: after the difficulty of captivity was full. Their kings had led them to abandon the Lord. The ten tribes were carried off while Benjamin and Judah had been left (mostly).
This Messiah would be the Shepherd King. To stand and shepherd His flock with the strength of God Himself. The comfort and peace the shepherd image gives offered hope to a people who were uncomfortable and seldom at peace.
So that the hope was not missed, Micah restates this: “He shall be their peace”. You mean to tell me, this same Jesus who we celebrate at Christmas, IS PEACE?!?!
Remember Gabriel coming to Mary. Mary visiting Elizabeth. All the parts of the story that come alive this time of year every year. Another part...
Matthew 1:18–20 ESV
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:18–25 HCSB
18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. 20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her 25 but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.
The prophecy that the Messiah would BE their peace was even fulfilled in preparing for His birth! Joseph should have been concerned. But the angel brings peace, and a message of peace, convincing Joseph this is the Lord’s doing.
Mary was found to be with child ‘by the Holy Spirit’. According to their law, she should have been stoned. Remember the woman caught in adultery from a couple weeks ago?
But an angel of the Lord brought the message of the Lord so Joseph would move forward bravely. With the peace in his heart that comes from knowing he was following God’s lead. I imagine the peace Joseph had to be well illustrated by this painting.
Peace in the Midst of the Storm - Jack Dawson painting
As you are still in the middle of the bustle of Christmas celebrations, here’s what I sense God asking us to do:
Let Jesus be your peace. Not just remember that Jesus brings peace, but LET HIM. Into your life. Your circumstances. Your heart.
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