O Little Town of Bethlehem
Christianity in its purest form is nothing
More than seeing Jesus.
Christian service, in its purest form, is nothing
More than imitating Him who we see.
To see His Majesty and to imitate him,
That is the sum of Christianity.
Many of us have family members or friends who have lost their sight as they got older. My grandmother was totally blind and when I was little I would hold her arm and take her for walks. She would always ask me what I was seeing. I would tell her what I was seeing of course as a little boy I was really seeing everything that was there. My father lost his sight starting in the 1990s and is almost completely blind now. He would tell you that losing his sight has been the one of worst thing that has happened to him but he still has an internal sight knowing things when he can see.
For 51 years Bob Edens was blind. He couldn’t see a thing. His world was totally black. His world was a black room of sounds and smells. He felt his way through 5 decades of darkness.
And then he could see. A skilled surgeon performed a difficult surgery and he discovered how bright colors were. He dreamed what yellow was but when he saw yellow he exclaimed, “ I never would have dreamed that yellow is so … yellow. I don’t have words. I am amazed by yellow. But red is my favorite color. I just can’t believe red.
I can see the shape of the moon – and I like nothing better than seeing a jet plane flying across the sky leaving a vapor trail. Of course sunrises and sunsets were magnificent. And at night I look at the stars in the sky and the flashing light. You could never know how wonderful everything is.”
But here is the thing I don’t believe that Bob Edens nor my grandma Bah (that is what I called don’t ask me why because I don’t know) nor my father are the only blind persons who have spent portions of their lives not seeing.
There are a number of people around us who have spent a lifetime of blindness and yet have eyesight.
- We can live right next to something and never see it.
- We have to focus our attention on it. Just because we look out and see the snow falling do we really see the snow. God created each flake differently – amazing.
- We may have a mate or a close friend do we take the time to look into their soul. Do we pause long enough to really see.
- So it with Christmas; many adults have seen many Christmases but have never seen or rarely experience the Christ of Christmas.
- We go through the motion buying presents, hustling here and there, running around from one Christmas party to another without seeing the Lord.
- The people of Israel believe it or not were not any different. They headed to their hometowns to register in a census that would eventually increase the tax base for Rome.
- Here was a town that most times was quiet little village about 6 miles south of Jerusalem that became very busy because of a census that brought a bunch of David’s kin there to register for taxes.
- The name Bethlehem means the house of bread and had been called Ephrath in older days.
- It lay nestled in between mountain ranges that provided a narrow strip of land that was very fertile. Maybe that is where it got its name because it provided grain, which produced bread.
- Bethlehem looked like a town set in an amphitheater of hills. The most important act in history was played on their stage and according to the Scripture few experienced it. If there were big crowds the Scripture would have said that. They missed it.
- Bethlehem had a long history.
- Jacob buried Rachel and he had set up a pillar next to her grave as remembrance. (Genesis 48:7; 35:20)
- This is where Ruth met Boaz and they were married there. She could look out over the Jordan valley and see Moab her native land.
- Without a Moabite named Ruth and Boaz a descendant of David the lineage of David would have halted.
- A Moabite – that would be like someone from Webster or Summersville.
- And this was above all else the home of David. When he was a fugitive it was the water from the well of Bethlehem that he longed for.
- In the minds of the people of Israel Bethlehem was special. It was the home of David.
- It was from the line of David that God would send the deliverer of his people.
- Micah 5:2 tells us that this little village would be honored in history even more than David’s home.
- It was in Bethlehem, David’s city that the Jews expected the Messiah to be born. It was there that they expected God’s Anointed One to come into the world – and so it happened that way.
- The image of Christmas – with the manger as the birthplace of Jesus sounds very touching, but that picture in our minds may be missing some reality.
- First off those who have been to that region tell us that Jesus was probably born in a cave near the village of Bethlehem.
- It seems that the houses were built on the slope of a limestone ridge and it was very common to have cave like stables hollowed out of the limestone rock below the house.
- The lifestyle and conditions were not a whole lot different than what we have seen on the TV in the poorest areas of Afghanistan.
- In fact a cave is shown in Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus.
- If some one would enter this make shift room – a cave turned stable turned into a nursery they would have remarked how unusual that a baby boy was born in a stable cave. And then to find out that this was God’s only Son the Messiah that had been waiting for.
- The stable stinks like a stable would. Have you ever worked in a stable – maybe putting hay up or visiting the state fair and looking at the farm animals. Barns, stables have a character about them.
- There is the stench of manure and urine. The ground is hard, the hay was scarce. Cobwebs cling to the ceiling and a mouse scampers across the dirt floor.
- Sounds like a great place to give birth to the Messiah. A lowlier place of birth could not exist.
- Off to one side a group of shepherds sit admiring the baby. They may still be in a sense of amazement after an explosion of light and a symphony of angels interrupted their night watch.
- Mary and the baby have been made as comfortable Joseph could make them. As you look closely at this remarkable scene you notice how young Mary is and how sleepy Joseph was. What is important is that Mary and the Baby Jesus are fine.
- So this is the Messiah, the Son of God. He doesn’t look like the King. His face is red and he cries a lot. Though healthy He is dependent on Mary and Joseph for His care. He is absolutely dependent on Mary.
- There are some wonderful truths about the character of God found in this Christmas story.
- The Lord of Glory came to this earth in a very unusual way but it was by God choosing and we must never forget that.
- He was born in a cave that sheltered animals that probably worked the fields; a humble birth because God chose to relate to us through humbleness and humility.
- There is a church where the cave is that they believe Jesus was born at and the door is so low that all must stoop to enter. It is fitting that everyone should approach the infant Jesus upon his / her knees.
- Philippians 2:5-11 (NIV)
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
- Majesty in the midst of the mundane and ordinary.
- Holiness found in manure and sweat of a stable.
- Divinity entered the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenage girl and in the presence of a carpenter.
- His golden throne was replaced by straw and bewildered shepherds replaced heavenly angels. Humanity replaced divinity.
- He came for those who were lost and blinded by the business of the world. The innkeeper had the Messiah right under his nose but was to busy running his business.
- Some scholars think that the inn was not a motel but a family owned home that housed travelers as relatives came to register.
- In whatever the case they were blind to who was in their stable/cave.
- The Scriptures tell us that the shepherds came because they heard and saw the heavenly message. The wise men opened their eyes to see. But all of Bethlehem looks like they missed out.
- The world we live in today is no different. Many are blinded by their agenda.
- Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival that night missed not because of evil acts or malice, no, they missed because they simply weren’t looking. Little has changed over the past 2000 years.Are you willing to open your eyes to see Jesus this Christmas and beyond?