Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On the Little Town of Bethlehem

I really resonate with the lectionary for this season. It is just so rich and far-reaching. I find myself identifying with Zechariah in his doubt. With Mary in her awe. With John in his poetic description of the incarnation. Each one speaks to a different part of me.

I must confess that in the past I spent little time on the Old Testament passages of the season. Other than the ones from Isaiah, of course. One such passage was Micah 5:2-5. It didn't seem to have anything new to say. That is not the case for me anymore. In the last couple of years, this has become one of my favorite passages for the season of Christmas (along with John 1:1-14).

I've always loved the Christmas hymn "O Little Town of Bethlehem" by Phillips Brooks. The carefully chosen words and beautiful melody of this song follow me throughout the month of December. These words have taken on new meaning as I've come to understand a little more about Bethlehem.

Bethlehem was not just a small town. Eugene Peterson calls this insignificant, undistinguished village of Judah, "the runt of the litter" (Micah 5:2). There was really nothing special about it.

And yet God chose this most ordinary place as the setting for the most extraordinary event: the birth of our Savior. This is befitting the redemptive nature of our creative God. We - or at least I - almost miss the significance of the place where God's presence came to dwell among us.

The significance of the choice of this little insignificant village for the birth of our Savior doesn't stop with its location and population. That would be enough for us, wouldn't it? To know that God delights to use the commonplace to accomplish his uncommon purposes should tell us all we need to know about our God and what he can do with our seemingly insignificant lives. But there's more...

The real beauty of Bethlehem is in the meaning of Bethlehem itself. It comes from the Greek words "Bet" and "Lehem." These words are literally translated "House of" and "Bread," respectively. So, Bethlehem literally means "House of Bread." Is there any more perfect place for the birth of our Savior, the true "Bread of Life"?

The creativity of our God astounds me. "How silently, How silently the wondrous gift is given" in a little town in Bethlehem and in the quiet of our hearts. May our Lord Emmanuel come to you and abide with you this Christmas season in a new/old way...quietly and completely.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

God Always Understands

Someone sent me this YouTube video the other day and it really ministered to me. It is just a subtle reminder from a child of who God is and how deeply he cares for us. I thought it was fitting given this season of Advent and preparation for our Coming King. It might seem a little "Lenten" to those of you who love the liturgical seasons like I do. Advent or Lent, the shadow of the cross is always there...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Prayer for Advent

Holy Child,
whom the shepherds
and the kings,
and the dumb beasts adored,
be born again.

Wherever there is boredom,
wherever there is fear of failure,
wherever there is temptation too strong to resist,
wherever there is bitterness of heart,
come, Thou Blessed One,
with healing in Thy wings.

Savior, be born in each of us
who raises a face to Thy face,
not knowing fully who he is
or who Thou art,
knowing only that Thy love
is beyond his knowing
and that no other has the power
to make him whole.

Come, Lord Jesus,
to each who longs for Thee
even though he has forgotten
Thy name.

Come quickly.


- Frederick Buechner