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Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Reflections on Bethlehem

At the first sight, it seems of little consequence to know the place of Christ's nativity; for we should consider him as our Redeemer, whatever the circumstances might be which attended his mortal life.

But, seeing it has pleased God to announce, beforehand, the place where the Savior of the world should be born, it became necessary that it should happen precisely in that place; and that this should be one of the characteristics whereby Jesus Christ should be known to be the true Messiah.

It is also a matter of small importance to us where we may live, provided we find genuine happiness. There is no place on earth, however poor and despicable, but may have better and more happy inhabitants than many of those are who dwell in the largest and most celebrated cities.

Do we know a single place on the whole globe where the works of God do not appear under a thousand different forms, and where a person may not feel that blessed satisfaction which arises from a holy and Christian life? For an individual, that place is preferable to all others where he can get and do most good. For a number of people, that place is best where they can find the greatest number of wise and pious men.

Every nation declines, in proportion as virtue and religion lose their influence on the minds of the inhabitants. The place where a young man first beheld the dawn and the beauty of renewed nature, and with most lively sensations of joy and gratitude adored his God, with all the veneration and love his heart was capable of; the place where a virtuous couple first met, and got acquainted; or where two friends gave each other the noblest proofs of their most tender affection; the village where one may have given, or seen, the most remarkable example of goodness, uprightness, and patience; such places, I say, must be dear to their hearts.

Bethlehem was, according to this rule, notwithstanding its smallness, a most venerable place; seeing that there so many pious people had their abode, and that acts of peculiar piety had often been performed in it. First, the patriarch Jacob stopped some time in it, to erect a monument to his well-beloved Rachel. It was at Bethlehem that honest Naomi, and her modest daughter-in-law, Ruth, gave such proofs of their faith and holiness; and in it Boaz, the generous benefactor, had his abode and his possessions.

At Bethlehem the humble Jesse sojourned, the happy father of so many sons; the youngest of whom rose from the pastoral life to the throne of Israel. It was in this country that David formed the resolution of building a house for the Lord, and in which he showed himself the true shepherd and father of his subjects, when, at the sight of the destroying angel, whose sword spread consternation and death on all hands, he made intercession for his people. It was in Bethlehem that Zerubbabel the prince was born, this descendant of David, who was the type of that Ruler and Shepherd under whose empire Israel is one day to assemble, in order to enjoy uninterrupted happiness.

Lastly, in this city the Son of God appeared; who, by his birth, laid the foundation of that salvation, which, as Redeemer, he was to purchase by his death for the whole world. Thus, in places which from their smallness are entitled to little notice, men sometimes spring, who become the benefactors of the human race. Often, an inconsiderable village has given birth to a man, who, by his wisdom, uprightness, and heroism, has been a blessing to whole kingdoms.

Sturm's Reflections, translated by A. C. vol. iv.
Source: Commentary on the Bible, Matthew 2:23, by Adam Clarke. Marion, IA: Laridian, Inc., 2015. Electronic edition copyright © 2015 by Laridian, Inc., Marion, Iowa. All rights reserved.

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