Advent 2019: Bethlehem

By Jamie Harms

When I was in middle school, we took care of a little boy, who had lost his mama. He and his dad became like family, practically living at our house following her death as we helped take care of the little boy during the day and often into the evening. We folded these two into family events and traditions, including at holidays. One Christmas season at the age of 3 or 4 this little boy, as he was playing with our nativity set underneath the Christmas tree, stopped and turned to my mom, saying, “I know why Jesus was born in a stable. If Jesus were born in a palace, then the shepherds could not come to visit Him.” He then bounded away to the next thing without saying anything more. From the lips of babes, this little boy uncovered a great truth about where Jesus was born. Jesus could have been born in Jerusalem at a palace heralding Himself king, but that was not His heart. Our little friend was right. If Christ had been born in a palace in Jerusalem, the shepherds could not have visited Him and worshiped Him. Instead, God chose to become flesh in the small, insignificant town of Bethlehem, where angels where His heralds and shepherds, wise foreign kings, and others could all come to worship Him. God wanted all of humankind to be able to come to Him, to see Him, to know Him, and to worship Him. Hence, He was born in a borrowed space to a young single mama in an insignificant town that all could access and would forever be known as the place where our God came to abide with us — all of us. For this we celebrate today.  

Today, on this second Sunday of Advent, we light the Bethlehem Candle.

Bethlehem Candle: As you light the Bethlehem Candle today, read Micah 5:2-5 and sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” remembering that you can know and worship Jesus Christ, who is our peace and light in this dark world.

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.

Micah 5:2-5

O little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see thee lie;
above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by:
yet in thy dark streets shineth
the everlasting Light;
the hopes and fears of all the years
are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary,
and gathered all above,
while mortals sleep, the angels keep
their watch of wond’ring love.
O morning stars, together
proclaim the holy birth!
And praises sing to God the King,
and peace to men on earth.

How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heav’n.
No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him still,
the dear Christ enters in.

O holy child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray;
cast out our sin and enter in;
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Emmanuel!

By Lewis Redner