O little town of Bethlehem . . . emphasis on little. Bethlehem was not a thriving metropolis; it was a mountaintop village. I'm picturing Pacha's stomping grounds in Emperor's New Groove.
This was such an unsuspecting spot for our Savior's birth. It was no Rome, New York, or Paris. Respectfully, it wasn't even a Gatlinburg. It was just a tiny town. But the thread of Old Testament prophecies wove right into the location of Jesus’s birth.
"But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.” Micah 5:2–5
This isn't what you'd anticipate as the birthplace of the Savior. And today, in our own circumstances, we can hold on to similar thoughts: I’m too young or too old to do this. I'll never be cool enough to relate to those kids in the youth group. I’m too scared of rejection to do this. I don't have a house big enough or a living room cute enough to invite people over. I'm not rich enough or social enough or holy enough.
But what we keep seeing while studying the stories of Advent is that God used unexpected people in unexpected places to prepare for the coming of Christ. He used murderers and prostitutes, liars and lowly locations. Can He not do the same to prepare for the second coming of Christ?
"God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God." 1 Corinthians 1:28–29
The gift of Christ is not just for the women who have fresh garland hung on every window and perfectly wrapped gifts under the tree. It's not just for those who serve at church every Sunday and have it all together. This gift is for the Bethlehems and the I-don’t-know-who-I-ams and the Romes and the roaming and the Syrias and the ones who take themselves way too seriously.
Cristoph Friedrich Blumhardt (what a name) wrote, "But if you embrace what is to come from God, if you live for Christ's coming in practical life, you will learn that divine things can be experienced here and now, things quite different from what our human brains can ever imagine."
It is so easy to let the voices in our heads ring louder than the nudges from the Holy Spirit. We can be quick to think so little of ourselves and quick to think so little of the One over it all. But again and again, Advent proves that God can do so much with what is perceived as so little.
That little mountaintop town of Bethlehem hosted the greatest miracle in history—and the God who ordained the birthplace of Jesus is not new to the unexpected. What a gift for all of us who feel weighed down with our own expectations of ourselves this Advent.