Bethlehem – City of Kings?

December 22, 2012 admin

Bethlehem“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.” (Micah 5:2)

Octavian Augustus was one of the greatest Caesars of the Roman Empire. Ironically, most know him today as simply a footnote to the Christmas story. (“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree”…Luke 2:1).

But his edict created a major headache to the common people of his day: tremendous uprooting of daily routine, heavy traffic volumes, inflated prices for food, accommodation – all to update tax rolls. This was particularly repugnant to the Jews – a unwanted reminder of their lost independence, and their continued languishing under Gentile authority.

Mary and Joseph were looking at a trip from Nazareth of at least 150 km. For reasons of safety and support, most people were travelling in caravans; but Mary’s reduced mobility probably caused them to travel largely alone.

Bethlehem is one of the oldest cities in the world, tracing its history back 4000 years. And although this town of 27,000 boasts as being the birthplace of 2 of history’s most impressive figures (including King David), today it is dingy, colourless, with ubiquitous graffiti, and hundreds of torn, posted notices hanging off of buildings and fences.

Considering this was Joseph’s hometown, it is staggering to think that the young couple could find absolutely no reasonable accommodation – particularly when the baby’s birth was imminent! Clearly the town was overflowing with visitors – but the stigma attached to Mary’s pregnancy outside of marriage likely resulted in shame and rejection in his own conservative, Jewish community.

However, it was all part of the divine plan for One whose birth emphasized humility: “but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself…“ (Philippians 2:7,8).

Takeaway: have you ever considered what it would have been like for the Creator of the universe, to leave the glory of heaven; to limit Himself in ways required by the Incarnation, and then to begin His earthly life with such shoddy treatment? As part of the eternal drama, His deliberate humiliation was a critical component to redeem you and me.