“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2.

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David): To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.   And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:4-7.

Jesus was born in the little Judean town of Bethlehem which is only 5 miles from Jerusalem.  Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was in answer to a prophecy made some seven hundred years before by Micah.  This prophecy assures us that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem and that his origins were ancient and unsearchable.  Ruth and Boaz, the great grandparents of King David, lived in Bethlehem and thus it subsequently became David’s home as well.  Jesus, David’s descendent, was later born there.  Long tradition, all the way back to the second century, has it that the manger where the baby lay was actually situated in a cave rather than a stable, although the Biblical account does not say for sure.

After Constantine’s conversion to Christianity In the early fourth century his mother, Helena, came to the Holy Land and began to construct great churches marking spots of the major biblical events.  By 330 the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem was built over the traditional site of Jesus’ birth.  In its early stages the Bethlehem church was fairly small and was later damaged seriously in an uprising.  In 529 the Emperor Justinian expanded the building to its present form.  The church miraculously survived the devastating Persian invasion of 614 and was likewise spared destruction by the Moslems as the Crusaders took over the Holy Land in 1099.  The old church, perhaps the oldest continuing Christian church in the world, has survived war, earthquake and fire and still stands today.

Since the 1995 Oslo Accords, Bethlehem has been administered by the Palestinian Authority.  Due to the resulting rise in Moslem persecution there is a sudden and drastic decline in the Christian Arab population which has now shrunk to less than 15 percent from over 80 percent in 1950.

Bethlehem is only a small city in Judah but it has had a momentous history, most importantly as the birthplace of our Savior.  We need to pray this Christmas season for Israel and Bethlehem that they be protected/released from the Islamic oppression that they are now experiencing.  Further, we should reflect that it was in this small, otherwise insignificant city, that the King of kings was born.

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