Summary: Sermon on the events that occured in Bethlehem at Christmas time.

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The Little Town of Bethlehem Matt. 2:1-11

INTRO.: Maybe you heard about the quiz show contestant who was asked, "Where was Jesus born?" He first guessed "Pittsburgh." When told he was wrong, he tried Scranton, then Harrisburg. When he was finally given the answer, Bethlehem, he said, "I knew it was somewhere in Pennsylvania."

There are two Rockdales: One in Milam county and one in Burleson.

There is more than one Bethlehem in the Bible. Even in Jesus’ day in Palestine there were at least two. One was in the far north near Nazareth where Jesus spent His childhood. The other was in Judea near Jerusalem.

It was this second Bethlehem where Jesus was born. It was also called Ephratha in the time of the prophet Micah. This was also the name of the region where it was located. So Micah calls it "Bethlehem Ephratha" and Matthew calls it "Bethlehem in the land of Judah" to distinguish it from the other Bethlehem. This Bethlehem still exists today, although its name is different.

This little town has such an important part in the Christmas story. Let’s think about Bethlehem for a while this Christmas Sunday morning.

I. It is a little town with a rich history:

A. Our first introduction to the town: Rachel buried there. Gen. 35:16-19

1. Nearly 2000 years before the birth of Jesus.

2. Great life and death struggle. Rachel dies naming her child "son of my sorrow."

3. This incident is referred to in Matt. 2:16-18

B. Bethlehem was the home of Ruth and Naomi

1. Most of the story of Ruth occurs there.

2. Remember how Naomi and Elimilech, and two sons, had to leave because of a famine then Naomi returned with Ruth. Ruth married Boaz and became part of the family tree of Jesus.

3. Boaz was a most important man. Only nine generations from David.

C. David was born in Bethlehem:

1. Spent his childhood herding sheep in the area.

2. He grew up to become Israel’s greatest king, warrior, and poet.

3. From his day on, the expected Messiah would be known as the son of David and be expected to reign on David’s throne.

4. Yet, Bethlehem is still just an obscure village. It never amounted to much commercially, politically, or religiously.

II. The most important thing that ever happened there was the birth of Jesus:

A. First, a strange sight out in the hillsides as angels appear to shepherds.

1. The glory of the Lord was seen as it hadn’t been since the time of Isaiah 6.

2. Then shepherds come into town seeking a baby in a manger.

3. The shepherds went out spreading the word of what they had seen and heard. Lk. 2:17, 18 people were amazed.

B. Then, Magi from the east came following a star.

1. There is much speculation as to the nature of the star. I believe it was a special sign sent from God never seen before or since.

2. There is no indication anyone else except the Magi saw it. It was just for them.

3. They came to a lowly home and presented gifts fit for a palace and a king.

4. The prophecy of Mic. 5:2 is fulfilled.

C. Then, death came:

1. Unfortunately, the Magi had enquired about where they could find "the King of the Jews." Herod became jealous.

2. All male infants in Bethlehem were destroyed. How many? We don’t know.

3. Matthew notes the fulfillment of another prophecy. Matt. 2:18. It is as if even the dead are shocked.

III. What lessons can we draw from the selection of this little town?

A. God is in control of history:

1. No site selection committee would have chosen Bethlehem.

2. In spite of a great history, it never amounted to much. Still "small among the clans of Judah."

3. God knows what He is doing. He knew about the census decree and about Joseph not living in Bethlehem. He arranged it all.

4. We see a lot of terrible things going on in our world, but He is still in control.

B. God often chooses the humble of this world to accomplish His purposes. I Cor. 1:26ff

1. The story of David illustrates this. God sent Samuel to the little hamlet of Bethlehem to a man named Jesse to anoint a new king.

2. Jesse had eight sons and seven were presented to Samuel. God rejected all.

3. The only son Jesse had left was his youngest. A kid who kept the sheep.

4. God chose the youngest son of an obscure family in an obscure village to be the greatest king Israel ever knew.

5. So, God chose to send His Son into this same little village to an unknown virgin betrothed to a humble carpenter.

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