Summary: Let's talk about the beauties of Bethlehem from Ruth 4 and Matthew 1 (Ties in with hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem)
The story of Christmas brings with it scenes of peace and tranquility. So when the church gathers and sings the beloved hymn O Little Town of Bethlehem, we do so with a certain vision in mind. The reality of Bethlehem, however, is much different. It was a small insignificant town; a town on the outskirts hidden within the shadows of Jerusalem. Bethlehem was a watering hole for shepherds. Bethlehem was a blue collar town filled with transients and those who provided basic services for people who could not afford a night in the big city.
Today, Bethlehem suffers from much the same identity crisis. As drivers park buses filled with tourists alongside narrow streets, curious vacationers pile into the Church of the Nativity hoping to stand in the spot where Jesus was born and have their picture made marking their visit to this holy place. Street vendors pedal their wares to anyone with a desire for a souvenir and an open wallet. And lest any of these unsuspecting tourists notice, interspersed throughout the crowded streets is a well armed militia keeping watch. This is Bethlehem, touristy, grimy, noisy and caught between two warring peoples.
Rachel- Ruth 4:11: May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah
When Jacob came to Laban, his uncle’s family, Jacob fell in love with Rachel, Laban’s daughter. “Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel ...” Genesis 29:16-18, NIV. Jacob worked for Laban 7 years to have Rachel as his wife. But when the time had passed, Laban deceived Jacob by giving him Leah instead of Rachel. When Jacob protested, Laban gave him Rachel also, on condition that Jacob serve 7 years more.
After Jacob and Rachel were married, Rachel had no children for many years. Leah had several children. The evil of having more than one wife we see here through the rivalry arising between these two sisters, each seeking by means of children to win the heart of Jacob.
When Jacob had enough of Laban and his cheating ways, he loaded up his family to go back to Canaan. Rachel stole the household gods (for fertility) and this was a source of conflict when Laban finally caught up them. In spite of all of this, she continued to be the favorite of Jacob. When they were meeting Esau, Jacob assigned to her the place of greatest safety. Also he loved Joseph, the son of Rachel, more than his other sons which lead to problems.
After the arrival in Canaan, while they were quickly on their way from Bethel to Ephrath (Bethlehem), we find this. Genesis 35:16-20.
Even though Jacob favored Joseph and Benjamin, we find that in Abraham’s tomb. “There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried, and there I buried Leah.” Genesis 49:31, NIV.