The Significance of Bethlehem

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, from you, will go out the one who will be the ruler for me in Israel. His goings forth are from the beginning, from the days of eternity. (Micah 5:2 —EHV)

One of our Favorite Christmas carols is “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Another popular carol is, “Once in Royal David’s City.” Both hymns recount how the Christ-child was born in Bethlehem. But have you ever stopped to think, why Bethlehem? It was a small (some archeologists estimate that it had about 300 residents at the time of Christ, insignificant town, outside of the important capital city of Jerusalem, most people wouldn’t have thought twice about Bethlehem. But if you sit down and think about the significance of this small town and how Christ was born there, you realize it adds another layer to the already wonderfully amazing Christmas story.

In started over 1000 years before Christ was even born. Jesus, a descendent of Judah settled in Bethlehem in the land of Judah. Jesse is the Father of David, who became the second king of Israel; and perhaps you remember the story from 1 Samuel 16, when the prophet Samuel traveled to Bethlehem to anoint David as the next king of Israel. As we talk about in our sermon for today, the monarchy of David’s line was cut down because of sin and rebellion—after 21 kings and about 400 years on the throne, the monarchy of David’s line was no more. But David was told that the reign of his ancestors would last forever.

But every word of the Lord is true. And since God promised David that his kingdom would be an eternal kingdom, that promise had to come true. In order to fulfill this promise, God sent his Son—his goings forth are from the beginning, from the days of eternity, as Micah says, indicating that Jesus is God who took on human flesh. And where was the Son of God born? Back where David’s monarchy started—back in his hometown of Bethlehem! Things have now gone full circle. Bethlehem’s claim to fame was that Great King David was born here, but now Great King David’s Greater Son was born there—God in the flesh, the Messiah, our Savior, born in the small seemingly insignificant town of Bethlehem!

And he would be the one to establish an eternal kingdom—ruling over his entire creation from his throne in heaven and in the hearts of all believers through faith in him. The Lord keeps his promises even if it seems as it’s impossible!

And, of course, we marvel at how Jesus was born in Bethlehem. His Mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph—both descendants of David living in Nazareth, as the crow flies—about 70 miles north of Bethlehem. God led Caesar Augustus to issue a census that forced everyone back to the town of their ancestors. And he timed everything just right so that Jesus, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary, would be born while Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem for the census, thus fulfilling his promise!

Yes, we know that Christ was born in Bethlehem. It may seem to be a insignificant detail, but we can’t help but marvel as to the significance of what this entails and how the Lord made it all come to fruition! May we all contemplate—and then marvel at all the wonders of Christ’s birth in the coming weeks!

Pastor Andrew Frey


Church News

Midweek Advent Services

Our Advent mid-week services will be on December 4, 11, and 18 at 10:30 am and 6:30 pm. This year’s theme is: the Prophet Isaiah’s Names of the Promised Messiah. We’ll look at three names Isaiah uses to teach us about the Savior: Immanuel, Shoot of Jesse, and Messiah. We pray that you will be able to join us for these services as we prepare our hearts and minds for Christ’s coming.

Advent Devotions

Click the link below for the 2019 edition of the Martin Luther College Advent Devotions. These devotions, written by MLC professors, make a great addition to your daily meditation on God’s Word. You can either download a PDF document, or sign up to have them sent straight to your email’s inbox.

https://mlc-wels.edu/publications/seasonal-devotions/

Christmas for Kids (God’s Greatest Gift) 

After the children’s Christmas practice on Saturday, Dec. 14, children, prek-6th grade are invited to this event from 9:30 am-11:00 am. The true meaning of Christmas will be taught, snacks will be served, and cookies will be decorated. There is a sign-up sheet in the entry for you to sign up or to help (we can use some helpers!). You can sign-up online on our website:

https://stjohnslutheranappleton.publishpath.com/christmasforkids

Christmas Caroling

All members — both young and old — are invited to join us as we go caroling to some of our Shut In members on Saturday December 14. This will follow the Christmas for Kids and Church Decorating. You are invited to join us for a potluck lunch at 12:00 pm. Following lunch, we will leave to begin caroling at 1:00 pm. Please sign up on the sheet in back of Church if you plan to attend. If you have any questions, please talk to Pastor Gartner.

Christmas Decorating 

We will be decorating the church for Christmas on Saturday, Dec. 14 at 9:30 am. All are welcome.

Advent and Christmas Services and Practices

As we approach December please keep the following worship services and events along with their times in your mind that you can join us in worshiping our coming Savior!

Midweek Advent Services

December 4, 11, 17 at 10:30 am and 6:30 pm

Children’s Christmas Practices

December 7, 14, 21 at 8:00 am

Christmas For Kids

December 14 from 9:30-11:00 am

Christmas Caroling

December 14 at 1:00 pm

Children’s Christmas Service

December 22 at 9:30 am and 11:00 am. Advent 4 at 8:00 and Monday at 6:30

Christmas Eve Candlelight Worship

December 24 at 3:00 pm, 5:00 pm, and 7:00 pm

Christmas Day Worship with Holy Communion

December 25 at 9:00 am

New Year’s Eve Worship with Holy Communion

December 31 at 6:30 pm

Bible Classes

On Sunday mornings, Pastor Gartner has begun a short study on the practice of Stewardship—how God wants us to use all the gifts that he has graciously given to us—whether it’s the use of our time, our talents, our treasures, our bodies, his great creation, etc. Plan on joining us for this study on Sunday mornings at 9:15 am. On Monday mornings and Tuesday evenings Pastor Frey has begun a study on the letters of John the Apostle. In his first letter John expertly weaves doctrine with practice—a practical letter filled with passages on the love and mercy of Christ. Please plan on joining us as we study these interesting letters to God’s people.

NOTE: We do have audio recordings and the Lesson Sheets of these Bible Classes. If you have been unable to attend and would like these sent to you, please email Pastor Frey or Pastor Gartner.