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Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

God frequently chooses the small to defeat the great. When Paul was encouraging the Christians at Corinth with his first letter to them, he put that particular truth this way: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27)." It’s a remarkably consistent pattern throughout scripture. God promised Abraham, a nomadic shepherd, that he’d become a great nation and that through him all the nations of the world would be blessed. He favored Jacob, the quiet homebody over Essau the mighty outdoorsman and hunter to further that promise (Genesis 25:27). Through Joseph, who had been cast out by his brothers and sold into Egyptian slavery, he continued to honor his promise to Abraham by seeding a Hebrew nation inside of the powerful and pagan Egypt. He then rescued that embryonic nation from the powerful and oppressive Pharoah using the insecure and timid Moses (Exodus 4:10). After that, he conquered Canaan with that same ragtag rescued group of Hebrews who could barely even keep themselves together. He defeated a giant Philistine with a shepherd boy, then made that boy a king. Out of that king’s line he gave us the ultimate prophet, priest, and king who had nothing about his appearance that would make us think of him as great. No looks, no wealth, and no status. That king rescued all the nations of the world with his willful and sacrificial death on a criminal’s cross.

That pattern is even evident in the prophecies that foretold of Jesus’s advent into the world. One of the most famous passages that predicted the birthplace of the then coming Messiah is Micah 5:2, where we’re told that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, a small and inconsequential town outside of Jerusalem. Part of the purpose of that prophecy is to link the Messiah to David, who was also born in Bethlehem. But perhaps just as importantly, the birth of a Messiah in an inconsequential town might shame the powerful religious authorities who found their seat in the sophisticated, Roman vassal state of Jerusalem. A true king of the Jews would threaten their worldly power, their worldly influence, and their worldly status. When news that a child had been born in Bethlehem who would be king of the Jews, it wasn’t just Herod who was troubled, but all of Jerusalem as well (Matthew 2:3-4). It would be the humble little town of Bethlehem that would be the undoing of a pride-laden Jerusalem.

Whenever you think that you are inconsequential, or that you don’t have the skill to advance God’s plan, know that you may very well be part of a pattern in which God uses what appears to be a weak vessel to shame what appears to be a strong and mighty feature of the world. A child of God is never inconsequential.

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