On our first day of the pilgrimage we visit Bethlehem and here is a short history of Bethlehem which you should read

Bethlehem History

The lineage of Jesus Christ is arranged in three groups of fourteen people each.  It was arranged that way so that it was probably easy to memorize. Remember that the gospels were written hundred of years before there was any such thing as a printed book. It is arranged in three sections and the three sections are based on three great stages in Jewish history.  The Star of Bethlehem has 14 points to correspond with 14 generations. In the floor there is a star, and round it a Latin inscription: Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary.”  But there is something beautiful in the symbolism that the church where the cave is has a door so low that all must stoop to enter.  It is supremely fitting that every man should approach the infant Jesus upon his knees.

Remember that there was no room for him in the inn, but there was room for him on the cross.

1st section takes the history down to David and his rise as Israel’s greatest king.

2nd section takes the story down to the exile to Babylon. It is the section which tells of the nation’s shame and tragedy, and disaster.

3rd section takes the story down to Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ was the person who liberated men from their slavery.

Jesus is the one person who can tell us what God is like, and what God means us to be .  In him alone we see what God is and what man ought to be. Before Jesus came men had only vague and shadowy, and often quite wrong, ideals about God. Before Jesus came men didn’t not really know what goodness was.  I never knew what things were like until you taught me how to look at them. Life is quite different when Jesus teaches us how to look at things.  When Jesus comes into our hearts, he opens our eyes to see things truly.

Bethlehem was quite a little town six miles to the south of Jerusalem. In the olden days it was called Ephrath or Ephratah.  The name Bethlehem means The House Of Bread.

Bethlehem had a long history.  It was there that Jacob had buried Rachel. Bethlehem was the home and city of David.  It was in Bethlehem, David’s city,  that the Jews expected David’s greater Son to be born, it was thee that they expected God’s Anointed One to come into the world.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem there came to do him homage to wise men from the East.  These Magi were men who were skilled in philosophy, medicine and natural science.   They were soothsayers and interpreters of dreams.  In those ancient days all men believed in astrology.  They believed that they could foretell the future from the stars, and they believed that a man’s destiny was settled by the star under which he was born. It was to a waiting world that Jesus came, and when he came the ends of the earth were gathered at his cradle.

Herod was half Jew and half Idumaean. There was Edomite blood in his veins. He was called Herod the Great and in many ways he deserved the title.  He had been appointed governor in 47 BC. He was a great builder, indeed the builder of the Temple in Jerusalem.  But Herod had one terrible flaw in his character.  He was almost insanely suspicious. He murdered his wife Mariamne and her mother Alexandra.  His eldest Antipater and two other sons were assassinated by him. When Herod was seventy he knew that he must die.  He retired to Jericho the loveliest of all his cities. He gave orders that a collection of most distinguished citizens of Jerusalem should be arrested on trumped up charges and imprisoned.  And he ordered that the moment he died, they should all be killed.  He said grimly that he was well aware that no one would mourn for his death, and that he was determined that some tears should be shed when he died.

No sooner was Jesus born than we see men grouping themselves into three groups in which men are always to be found regarding Jesus Christ.  Let us look at the three reactions.

1. There was the reaction of Herod, the reaction of hatred and hostility.  Herod was afraid that this little child was going to interfere with his life, his place, his power, his influence and there his first instinct was to destroy him. There are still those who would gladly destroy Jesus Christ, because they see in him the one who interferes with their lives. They wish to do what they like, and Christ will not let them do what they like and so they would kill him. The man whose one desire is to do what he likes has never any use for Jesus Christ.

2. There was the reaction of the chief priest and scribes, the reaction of completed indifference.  It did not make the slightest difference to them.  There are still those who are so interested in their own affairs that Jesus Christ means nothing to them.

3. There was the reaction of the wise men, the reaction of adoring worship, the desire to lay at the fee of Jesus Christ.  Surely, when any person realizes the love of God in Jesus Christ, he, too, should be lost in wonder, love and praise.

The legend gave the three wise men these names: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.

God is a gift for a king, Frankincense is the gift for a priest and Myrrh is the gift for one who is to die.  There is also some symbolism between the shepherds and the wise men. The shepherds represent the poor people and the wise men represents the rich people.  Both the rich and the poor come to worship this child.  The Jews even today can’t believe how one person can have such an impact on the world as Jesus did.

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