Tag Archives: Bethlehem

Entertaining Unaware

Throwback Thursday is a new feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

I don’t think the innkeeper ever gets enough credit at Christmas. Sure, we mention him in passing when reading Luke 2 for our plays, but no one ever really thinks about him. To me, he played a critical role in the birth of our Savior. He provided the setting for every nativity you’ve ever seen. Yet have you ever looked at a nativity and thought of him? I know the scene isn’t about him, but it wouldn’t look like that if it weren’t for him.

We know that Ceasar Augustus had called for a census. It’s not like the censuses we take today where government workers come to your house and ask you questions. Each family had to travel to the hometown of their ancestors. For Joseph, a descendent of David, that was Bethlehem where David grew up. It was an 80 mile trip that he and Mary had to walk or ride by donkey. Mary was obviously in her third trimester, and I’m sure they had to stop pretty often.

By the time the two of them arrived, the town was full. I’m sure they went to his family to try to stay with them. After having no luck with any of his family, they started going to the inns in the city, but quickly found out it was no better. Joseph must have been getting desperate. Mary could have been having contractions and he needed some place for his son to be born. As the sun set, he knew they were out of options. It could be that this particular innkeeper had compassion on them and offered shelter in the stable.

We really don’t know the details, but what we do know is that they ended up in his stable. This particular innkeeper thought differently than all the others in town. With no room in the inn, he offered them the only other place he had. He wasn’t going to turn a weary, pregnant woman away. I’m sure he had no idea that she was carrying his Messiah. I’m sure he didn’t know that his stable would become a hallowed sanctuary that millions would flock to in the future. We simply know that he offered what he had and it was more than enough to be the setting for the birth of the King of Kings.

It makes me wonder how many times I’ve not had time or room for people in my life. How many times have I been like the other innkeepers in Bethlehem? What if some of them were sent to me by God? I believe that God gives us daily opportunities to open up and let others into the inn of our lives, but too often we are too busy and are so full that we turn them away. I believe if we found even just a small space for them, we could change their world. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget or neglect or refuse to extend hospitality to strangers [in the brotherhood – being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for through it some have entertained angels without even knowing it (AMP).” The innkeeper entertained the Son of God unaware because he was open to helping others.

Photo by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash

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Joy To The World

This time of year, it becomes obvious that many of us don’t remember much more than the first verse of most Christmas Carols. As we lead up to Christmas this week, I want to explore some powerful verses in some of my favorite carols.

  
If you’ve ever read the Genesis account of creation, you know that we were banned from Eden because of Adam and Eve’s inability to obey God’s simplest instruction. They had access to everything in Eden except for one tree. When they sinned through disobedience, God responded to Eve first and then to Adam. He told Adam the ground would be cursed and, “It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains” (NLT). The second Adam, Jesus, came to set us free of the spiritual aspect of that curse.

The third verse to “Joy To The a World” says the following:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found,

Far as the curse is found,

Far as, far as, the curse is found.

Because Jesus came to earth, sin no longer had free reign. The antidote to its effects came in the form of a baby born in Bethlehem. Galatians 3:13 says, “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law.” No more could sin grow, nor its spiritual thorns pierce our souls. The curse of sin was broken and joy was returned to the world for every heart that has prepared room for Him. There is no place the curse has gone that grace cannot find.

Each of us have been under the effects of the curse. Each of us have sinned against God according to Romans 3:23. It was while the world and each of us were in this helpless estate that God sent His Son to redeem us from the curse. You and I can return to spiritual Eden when we accept that the baby born in Bethlehem was the Son of God who sacrificed His physical life for our spiritual one. That night in the Judean hillside, Joy was indeed sent into the world.

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O Little Town Of Bethlehem 

This time of year, it becomes obvious that many of us don’t remember much more than the first verse of most Christmas Carols. As we lead up to Christmas this week, I want to explore some powerful verses in some of my favorite carols.

  
A few years ago, we were preparing for Christmas. I was putting gifts in boxes, then sliding them to my wife who was wrapping them. After she would wrap, she would ask who the gift was for. On one such gift, she looked at me with pen in hand expectantly. I looked at the box, smiled, and said, “That one is for you!” She had been so busy wrapping that she couldn’t remember what was on the box.

That’s kind of how God snuck the gift of our savior into the world. It wasn’t a big showy presentation. It was delivered in a barn through a humble girl who was barely known. The world would expect the King of Kings to get around the clock coverage, tweets wondering what His name would be, and hashtags so everyone could follow. But that’s not how God did it. He did it oppositely from the way we would have done it.

The lyrics of “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” described it like this:

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;

So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.

No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,

Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in

God silently sent us His gift of redemption. The path to Heaven was illuminated by a star instead of spotlights. It was announced to shepherds instead of to people of social stature. Those who were looking and listening for Him found a baby lying in a manger in the small town of Bethlehem, which wasn’t even the capital. God entered this world silently so that those who are seeking Him will find Him. Those who find Him and receive Him will have His peace live in their heart and their sins forgiven. Oh what a gift that was given in the little town of Bethlehem.

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Getting To Bethlehem

From the moment Jesus was born, people began to look for Him. The heavenly announcements rang throughout the universe. God wanted everyone to know His son was born. He took His omnipotent power, wrapped it in flesh and made Himself as vulnerable as He could. He wanted us to know the depths of His love by giving up everything to come be a part of our broken world. From His announcements, three types of people came to see the child. They were all eager to find Him, but not all reached their goal.

The first to hear the news were shepherds in a field. God looked for those who were nearby to tell the news to. They were sitting around chatting when an angel appeared to give them the announcement. After he told them, more appeared and they begs to sing. Luke 2:16 says they hurried to Bethlehem and found the baby. When some of us hear the story of Jesus, we hurry to accept Him into our lives. We hear the Good News and rush to a changed life. Rich or poor, God doesn’t care, He just wants to find those who will listen and be moved.

The next to find out about the birth of Jesus were the wise men from the east. They saw a star that lead them to Bethlehem. Many theologians believe that it took them around two years to make their way to Bethlehem. When the arrived in Judea, the found the palace in Jerusalem to inquire about the new king. King Herod explained there was no king born. He called the priests in and asked where the Messiah would be born. When they said Bethlehem, he sent them there, but wanted to know where in Bethlehem.

I love how “The Bible” series depicted the wise men arriving to see Jesus. They had this look of shock on their face. One of them said, “The King of kings was born in the most humble of places.” For some of us, the birth and life of Jesus doesn’t make sense. We are a far way off from salvation. It takes us time to come to the truth and to have our lives changed. We don’t accept the message right away, but we continue to seek. If that’s you, God is still calling out and sending His signs to lead you to His son. Keep seeking and you will find Him.

The third person heard about the birth from the wise men. After the left for Bethlehem, King Herod was scared that he would lose his throne. He didn’t want to give up everything he had to embrace everything God had. He set out to kill the baby and stop the message. An angel appeared to Joseph though and warned him. His family alone was spared from the massacre. There are many who will hear the story of Jesus, but will refuse to give up their lives for His. They won’t want to get off the throne of their lives and let God be in control. They will do everything they can to stop the Gospel. Yet God still invites them to come.

John 3:16 says, “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” Each of us have been invited to come and see. Each of us reading this have heard the announcement of His birth. Whether you’re near or far, the choice is yours to make your way to that manger. The choice is yours to accept eternal life. God has not quit announcing His plan. When we hear it, we have to choose to get off the throne of our life and let Him sit on it, we can choose to seek Him more or we can choose to try to do away with the message. It’s your decision.

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No Room

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus today, I want to go back to the original day of His birth. Joseph and Mary had been traveling to the town of Bethlehem and couldn’t find a place to stay. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but I’m sure they tried to stay with there family first. After being unable to find someone to stay with, they went to the local hotel. There was no room there either. I’m sure Mary looked tired from all the traveling and she was clearly full term.

I’m sure Joseph was desperate and needed a roof over their heads. The inn keeper then mentioned the stable. Without any other choice, they took it. I imagine them walking into that barn and the smell hitting them. I imagine the noise of the animals was loud too. It wasn’t too long after being there that Mary went into labor. Jesus was born into a world that had no room for Him.

I look at our world today and wonder, is today any different? Is there room for Jesus today? People often think that they have to clean up to let Him into their lives or that they have been so bad that He wouldn’t want to come into their life. What we don’t think about is that God chose the stable for Jesus to be born in. God, who is all powerful, could have made room anywhere He wanted to have Jesus born. But He didn’t. He chose a stable.

I think He chose the stable because it represents you and me. Our lives are often full, loud and they stink. He isn’t looking for a palace to dwell in. He’s looking for someone who will give Him room… even if it is in their barn. It doesn’t matter to Him if you’re rich, poor, good, bad, clean or dirty. He just needs a little space to come into. It won’t take long though before you start making changes and giving Him more space.

Once you give Him that space, He is ready to bring others into your life to help you on your way. He sent shepherds and wise men to see Jesus once He was born. I think God sent the shepherds because of what they do. They guide and direct the sheep. They protect them and watch over them. He sent the wise men who brought gifts and I’m sure provided Joseph and Mary with much needed wisdom. We all need shepherds and wise men (people) in our lives.

God knows what you have need of. We all need people who will guide us, protect us and give us wisdom. When we create space in our lives for Him, He begins to place those people around us. We often don’t recognize or see them for what they are until later, but they’re there. It’s amazing what God does for those who are willing and make a little room for Him. Is there room for Him in your life? Do you need to give Him more space? I know I do.

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