This week’s session about the birth of Jesus may feel odd at first—although it shouldn’t. Now, aside from the thought that Jesus may have been born in the spring instead of December, studying this story any time of the year should not be jarring to us. This is too important of a story to limit to just one time a year. It is never a bad time to talk about the Son of God being born in the flesh so that He would live a sinless life, die to defeat sin, and rise again from the grave. And if you have been walking with your kids through the Old Testament, this week’s story is what so much of what we have studied to this point has pointed toward. Jesus, the One promised all the way back in Genesis 3 and the One spoken of so many times, is finally here!
I have already written about the more prominent aspects of the birth of Jesus quite a bit on this blog, so you may want to go back and read through some of those posts, but for this week, I wanted to take a little different approach. I want to drill down on the tiny town of Bethlehem.
My wife is into photography and she will watch videos to improve her skills. The other day I overheard part of a video in which the instructor was explaining how important the background is in a picture. He was explaining that the background is another subject in the picture and that it should be part of the story being told.
That’s a helpful way for us to think about the town of Bethlehem, God’s providential choice for where Jesus would be born.
Bethlehem, first called Ephrath or Ephratah (Genesis 35:16-19), is a small town about six miles south of Jerusalem. The town became more commonly known as Bethlehem after the conquest described in the Book of Judges. The word Bethlehem means house of bread.
After being introduced as the burial place of Rachel, Bethlehem came to prominence again in the big story of the Bible as the setting of much of the Book of Ruth. Ruth, of course, gives us that amazing picture of the kinsman redeemer pointing to Jesus, and also was the great grandmother of David.
It’s not surprising then that David was born in Bethlehem (1 Samuel 17:12) or that Samuel anointed him as Saul’s successor there (1 Samuel 16:1, 13). Bethlehem would later become known also as the “city of David” (Luke 2:11).
While Bethlehem pops up in a handful of other Old Testament passages, it is perhaps best known from Micah 5:2, the prophecy that the Messiah would be born there.
So why Bethlehem as the birth place of Jesus? Because in God’s characteristic way, He is layering beauty on top of beauty in the gospel story. It would have been more than enough for Jesus to be born—anywhere. But God gives us so much more than that.
Ruth met her kinsman redeemer in Bethlehem. Later, the world would meet our kinsman redeemer in Bethlehem.
David, one of Israel’s greatest kings, was born in Bethlehem. Jesus, the world’s perfect King, was born in Bethlehem.
It is fitting that Jesus, the Bread of Life, drew in His first breath as a baby in a cradle in the house of bread.
This week as you point your kids to the beauty of this pivotal story, try to point them to the beauty of what is in the background as well—a tiny town that speaks so much to God’s amazing Authorship of the gospel.
What”background” details in other stories do you find beautiful? Leave a comment below.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the March 19, 2017 session (Unit 19, Session 3) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian, his wife, Tara, and their three children—Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb—live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 4-5 graders at City Church.