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B is for Bethlehem

B is for Bethlehem

When the Magi left the East to seek the newborn king of the Jews, they did not go to Bethlehem. Not at first. They went to Jerusalem instead, the place of power, wealth, and importance. We call them Wise Men, but this is a reminder that even the most wise among us are still human, unable to fully comprehend the purposes of God, who moves in mysterious ways.

In Jerusalem, the Magi would learn from Herod’s men that the ancient hope pointed not to mighty Jerusalem but to scrappy Bethlehem. It's kind of like learning that you're going to Cleveland instead of New York City. Matthew’s gospel quotes loosely from the prophet Micah, telling us, “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah . . .” But the original text (Micah 5:2) emphasizes the smallness of the city: “But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.”

The primacy of Bethlehem is yet another reminder – there are many in the scriptures – that God does not see as humans see. The newborn king will not claim any earthly throne. He will not make any fortune, hold any office, or lead any army. His kingdom will be built on love alone. If we wish to seek him today, we must learn the lesson of the Magi, not orienting our lives upward toward the ways of power and wealth, but walking a lowlier path, so that our steps may lead us into little deeds of love, where Christ may be born anew in us.


Pastor Jonathan