O little town of Bethlehem,
how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
the silent stars go by;
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)
Joseph and Mary make the dangerous week-long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a mountainous trade-route town surrounded by olive trees, fig trees, vineyards and wildflowers. Over the mountains and down the valleys to the River Jordan. They will encounter rugged hills, unpredictable weather, dense forests. Forests lurking with lions, bears, wild pigs . . . bandits, pirates, and thieves. They must make this journey to the birthplace of their forefather, David. Joseph, staff in hand, walking beside Mary, riding on a donkey. Joseph knew the road well for he has made this journey annually to participate in the feasts at Jerusalem. Mary had recently taken this road to meet with her cousin, Elizabeth. Their destination: Bethlehem. “House of meat” in Aramaic, “House of bread” in Hebrew. “House of David”, the shepherd boy king. Bethlehem, once a thriving melting pot of peoples and cultures, now an insignificant, small village. Bethlehem, a couple hours walk south of Jerusalem where the Holy Infant Jesus will become the perfect sacrifice Jesus 33 years later.
Like Mary and Joseph, our journey to Bethlehem is often dangerous. We encounter obstacles, both natural and spiritual. Our human nature beckons we go in one direction, the Holy Spirit whispers another. Though we may not encounter wild, flesh-eating animals or knife-threatening thieves, we do encounter our own fleshly desires. Hunger for wealth, for power, for authority. We sabotage ourselves, stubbornly asserting our own desires above God’s desires. Just as Israel had experienced a tumultuous relationship with God due to their disobedience and sin, so do we. Just as God provided a new, anointed king to redeem Israel, so does He provide redemption for us through faith in Jesus. God’s great love is reaching out to a lost world, a fearful world, a hopeless world.
Have you experienced His love reaching out to you? Today, are you on a mountain top or in a valley on your road to meet Jesus? What dangers are you encountering along the road? While you may not need spears and swords to fight off your enemies, you most certainly do need prayer, praise, worship and faith for the journey. Though you may think your life treacherous and insignificant, remember that God ordained the dangerous journey to Bethlehem, hardly a bleep on the map, for the birthplace of His Son, King of Kings, Light of the World. Tonight, won’t you look up at the stars in the sky, praise God, and sing, “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie! Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;”