During the Christmas season I enjoy reading the passages pertaining to the birth of Jesus.
This year, like those in the past, has once again caused me to pause and consider the “hidden nuggets” that strangely lay in plain sight.
In last week’s post, The Shepherd Effect, I shared that the words “they hurried,” revealed an attitude of excited expectation. An attitude that was not met with deliberation or contemplation, but one that was met with an instant response. It reveal that their excitement was at such a high level that they dropped everything and hurried…hurried… to see what had been told to them about the Christ child.
This hurried attitude has challenged my approach and expectation to this Christmas season. It has caused me to be mindful to not let the “hurried-ness” of shopping, baking, gift wrapping, decorating etc. to overshadow or rob me of the excitement that should be celebrated at this time of year. The celebration of remembering that the Son of God stepped down from heaven and entered into the world to offer forgiveness and eternal life with Him.
This week as I continue to dwell on the passages written about the saviors birth, two additional things caught my attention. The first is the location of Jesus birthplace (Bethlehem) and the second is the location where he was laid after being born ( the manger).
- Luke 2:4 So Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem.
- Luke 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
In reading this, I am reminded that God does not do anything with insignificance, so I began to explore these two locations and here is what I discovered.
- A Palestinian city at the central West Bank of the Jordan River, approximately 5 miles south of Jerusalem.
- It is first mentioned in the Bible as the place where Rachel died and was buried “by the wayside” (Gen 48:7).
- Rachel’s Tomb, the traditional grave site, stands at the entrance to Bethlehem.
- According to the Book of Ruth, the valley to the east is where Ruth of Moab gleaned the fields and returned to Bethlehem with Naomi.
- Biblical tradition holds that Bethlehem is not only the birthplace of King David, but where he was anointed king by Samuel.
- It was from the well of Bethlehem that three of king David’s warriors brought him water when he was hiding in the cave of Adullam.
These “quick facts” are interesting and significant in their own right but they are not what commanded my interest. Instead my attention was directed to the meaning in the name of Bethlehem itself. A meaning that I find holds merit.
In the Arabic, Bethlehem means house of flesh and in Hebrew and Aramaic it means house of bread.
Lets hold this thought and turn our attention to the word manger.
- A trough carved out of stone or wood which is used to hold food for animals.
This description speaks for itself and is a little unsettling when you think that a newborn baby was placed inside of a food bowl, especially since that newborn was the son of God. However, as astonishing as this may be it is not what I focused on.
My attention was drawn to the symbolism of the Christ child inhabiting the manger and filling it up.
To elaborate, the sole purpose of a manger is to hold food, nourishment, and life sustenance. Without it being filled, those that would draw from it would go hungry, become weak, malnourished and eventually die. Symbolically I see that the Christ child placed in the manger becomes the life sustenance for anyone who would draw from His trough.
So putting these two things together, the meaning of the name for Bethlehem which is – house of flesh – house of bread, and the symbolism of the newborn Christ becoming the “food” offering, the life sustenance for all of mankind, has enlighten these scripture passages below.
- John 6:33 (Whole Chapter)
For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
- John 6:35 (Whole Chapter)
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
- John 6:48 (Whole Chapter)
I am that bread of life.
- John 6:51 (Whole Chapter)
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
As I mentioned earlier, God does not do anything with insignificance. The very name of the town in which Jesus was born bears witness to who He is (House of Flesh – House of Bread), and the lowly manger is ironically not so lowly for it revealed the very purpose of the son of God, the food offering that came down from heaven.
if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever:
and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”