Advent Day Fourteen: O Little Town of Bethlehem

“O Bethlehem, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. . . And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. . . He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 5:2, 4, 8)

History is replete with strong leaders who have fallen under the weight of their own power.  Given enough time, they begin to believe in their invincibility and often exert autocratic decrees that victimize the poor and weak.  Even Christian leaders succumb to scandal and disgrace when their personality becomes the focus rather than the gospel.

Israel was shattered by poor leadership from their kings.  The peace was continually disturbed by coups and infighting.  Prosperity was interrupted by invading armies from without and moral corruption from within. 

Jesus was a different kind of leader.  He was a shepherd rather than a general.  He came from Bethlehem, a tiny rural town in Judah, far from the centre of power in Jerusalem.  His parents were ordinary, working class, pious Jews.  His followers were fishermen, tax collectors, and women.  He spoke not of economic prosperity but of justice and peace.  His battlefield was the spiritual realm where the hosts of heaven overcame the forces of darkness.  Righteousness triumphed, and the power of sin and death was broken by the lamb. 

Two thousand years later, the impact of this humble shepherd is seen in every corner of the world.  His influence is witnessed in hearts transformed by love.  Hatred is defeated by  mutual submission and love for the neighbour, even if the neighbour is an enemy.  He calls world changers to take up the cross and lead as servants. Bethlehem, the seat of world transformation.

“O LORD we are tempted to look for strong leaders to take up our cause and conquer our enemies.  You chose to lead by love and servanthood.  The way of the shepherd leads to the cross. Let us not grow weary in well doing.”  Amen.

Mindi Oaten’s painting “Son of God: The I AM”is from God’s Garden of Grace collection.

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Paul was a preacher and teacher until he retired in 2015. He continues to write and listen to what God is saying to him in the ordinary and extraordinary things of life. Elaine was a public school teacher and administrator until she retired in 2018. She is using her retirement to reflect on God's work in her life and to share insights with her family and friends.

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