Christmas: Why Bethlehem?

editor - 20 December 2018

These days we are celebrating Christmas. As Christians we believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah. The King of Israel and the Lord of the Christian churches worldwide. In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke we can read that Jesus is born in Bethlehem, a city in Judea. His mother was Mary and her real Jewish name was Miriam. Being born in Bethlehem was not a coincidence. When wise men from the East had seen His star they decided to go to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel to worship the new born King. That is obvious, because a king you first of all seek in the capital of a country. When I witness all the present discussions about the status of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital I hardly can hide a smile. In the ancient books of Tenach and New Testament Jerusalem was already without any doubt the everlasting capital of Israel and the Jewish people. Even wise men from the East knew this. And the Jews never changed it.

However the newborn King was not born in Jerusalem. The priests and the teachers of the law answered that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, 10 km south of Jerusalem. As the prophet Micah says:

“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)

This is not to question the status of Jerusalem, but has a total other reason. King David’s origin was from Bethlehem. There he was born and grew up as the son of Jesse. And the Messiah was called the ‘Son of David’. So the Messiah’s origin is of the root of Jesse and David. Like Isaiah says:

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him.” (Isaiah 11:1,2)

There is no doubt that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, because David was the king of Israel and ruled over his kingdom from Jerusalem. And also the Messiah once will be given “the throne of His father David and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever”, so the angel Gabriel told Mary in Luke 2:33. But the reference to Bethlehem and the root of Jesse and David here is very special. It does not only emphasize the bond between Jesus and David’s kingdom over Israel, but it emphasises especially the deep bond between the Messiah and the people of Israel, the root of Jesse and David. So the deep connection between the Messiah and the Jewish people is not only geographically but also ethnic and biblical. Being born of the virgin Mary the Messiah came as deep into the flesh of mankind as possible, and especially into the flesh of the Jewish people. So through our faith in Jesus Christ, in whom we recognise the Messiah, we as Christians are deeply connected with Israel and the Jewish people. Let us never forget this when we celebrate Christmas.

On behalf of the whole Christians for Israel team I wish you and your beloved ones a blessed Christmas.



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