“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
– Micah 5:2
WHEN I LOOK at people, it seems to me that those who are insecure are the ones who are loud, flamboyant, and boastful. Those who are living confidently and with inner peace are the ones who exhibit gentle humility and calmness to their lives. The birth of Jesus seems to exude these later qualities. God entered our world with a quiet reserve, and in a manner that had more similarities with a penniless vagabond than with His rightful title of King of Nations.
Consider the place where Christ was born. Besides being the burial place for Rachel and the birthplace of King David, Bethlehem had few claims to fame. Even Jerusalem, which lay six miles north, overshadowed it in religious import, economic stature, and historical grandeur. And Rome, about 1400 miles away, was the mecca of cosmopolitan life, the shining example of human achievement and thinking, and a bastion of strength and power. By our human reasoning, Christ should have been born in Rome within Caesar’s palace. In fact, when the Magi went looking for Jesus, they went to Herod’s palace because they assumed that he would be born in a place of affluence and prominence. Instead, God ordained, before the beginning of time, a Podunk town in the middle of nowhere as his birthplace. But why? What message was God trying to convey by entering human history in Bethlehem?
It appears as though God wanted to tear down man’s faulty assumptions and materialistic expectation of what the Messiah ought to be. A Jewish nation wanted a Savior who would rule in political strength and who would free them from Roman oppression. A crowd suffering from diseases and illnesses wanted a healer to cure their physical infirmities (although not necessarily their spiritual ones). And even his own disciples assumed that Jesus would bring them some amount of power and prestige—the Bible records them arguing about which of them would be the “greatest.” In the end, everybody wanted Jesus to give them “stuff”—as though the Messiah was some sort of cosmic Santa Claus.
Jesus’ humble birth in Bethlehem was an emphatic statement that the God of the Universe is more concerned about matters of our hearts than about matters of the flesh. The latest fashion trends, political polls, and worldly riches have little interest to him. In Isaiah 53:2-3, the following prophecy is made about Jesus, “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” His purpose was to become our sin for our salvation, not the stuffing for our stockings.