“The House of Bread”
(Before you light the second candle, another one of the darker colored candles, relight the Prophecy Candle and repeat its name and significance, then light the Bethlehem Candle. You may even want to treat yourself to some delicious bread during this week’s devotions focusing on Bethlehem, the House of Bread..)
WEEK 2 INTRODUCTION
(Continue your sequence of having your personal and daily devotions by candle-light.)
As you light the Second Advent Candle, the Bethlehem Candle, we remember that God came to us in the form of a newborn baby in a specific time in history and in a specific place in this vast world. As we learn more about Jesus’ birth as a baby, let us also keep in mind all that Jesus left behind, to come and be with us. It is truly a miracle that Jesus, being one with God the Father, would be willing to leave His home in Heaven for the “soul” purpose of showing us the way back to heaven! Although Jesus was never truly separated from His Father in His Spirit because He is one in the Spirit with the Father, still Jesus must have missed the physical presence of His Father every day. Nevertheless, Jesus came down from Heaven in the smallest and meekest form of mankind—a newborn baby. This is a good time to sing, or at least read the words to O Little Town Of Bethlehem—a well-known Christmas Carol by the American Author, Phillip Brooks.
O Little town of Bethlehem! How still we see thee lie;
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light:
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
For Christ was born of Mary; and gather’d all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wond’ring love.
O morning stars, together proclaim the Holy Birth!
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.
How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
O holy Child of Bethlehem! Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sins, and enter in, Be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels the Great glad tidings tell’, O come to us, abide with us: Our Lord Emmanuel!
DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR WEEK TWO
Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:1-12
Bethlehem was a small place; even God says so in the book of Micah. God foretold His people where their Messiah would come from 700 years before God sent His Son Jesus, the Messiah. In the book of Micah, God foretells His people that a ruler of Israel, whose roots go way back, would come from Bethlehem. Sometimes God calls us to seemingly small tasks or insignificant places. But let us be obedient, as Jesus was to the Father, and allow God to use us wherever and however—always trusting that He knows best. There is never anything insignificant about God’s will in our lives!
(Matthew 2: 1-12)
In this passage we find the Wise Men coming to Jerusalem in their pursuit of the exact location of the One they knew had been foretold to be the King of the Jews. They were most likely astrologists and great scientists of their day, but they lacked the knowledge of what the Holy Scriptures said about the actual birthplace of this king foretold from days of old. They had recognized His Star from the East and they acted upon what they knew concerning the prophecies of this newborn king. With the knowledge they had and with a quest for more understanding of the Holy Scriptures, they set out to honor and receive the Messiah King! What an example of active faith these Wise Men give us today! We don’t have to know everything about God or understand all the Scriptures before we decide to follow Him. We simply must act upon what we do know, and He will guide us the rest of the way!
The Wise Men had stopped in the largest city closest to the star they were following, and asked King Herod if he knew where they could find this new king. King Herod sent for the priests and the teachers of the Jewish law to find out more about this new arrival of a king for the Jews. The priests and the teachers knew exactly what the Wise Men were referring to and even quoted the prophecy recorded in Micah chapter 5 (700 years before hand)! They explained that a ruler would come from Bethlehem in the land of Judah. He would shepherd the people of Israel and His people would return from exile into their own land. King Herod was obviously threatened by this prophecy, as he instructed the Wise Men to let him know if they found this newborn king. But the Wise Men were smarter than that. They simply went on their way and never came back through Jerusalem!
The saddest part of this passage is that the priests and the teachers, being Jews themselves—and in full knowledge of the scriptures, did not go with the Wise Men to receive their new King. Unlike the Wise Men, these scholars knew of the Scriptures, but they did not act upon them. By not going to receive their prophesied king, they had rejected God’s gift of His Holy Son right from the beginning! How tragic for us today, if we—like these priests and teachers—know of God’s Word and the message of salvation, but do not act upon what we know! Let this be a lesson to us: that knowing about Jesus is not the same as knowing Jesus.
In order to find the good gifts only God can give us, we must be willing to follow what we do know about God, seek the Scriptures to lead us in our lives, and receive God’s Son as our king. The Wise Men brought Jesus their best gifts; but Jesus brought the Wise Men the greater gifts: joy, peace, goodwill, hope, and most importantly—a place in Heaven for all eternity!
Search your hearts and ask yourself, “Which group of people do I most identify with?”
1.) King Herod, feeling threatened by a power greater than himself?
2.) The Priests and the Teachers of the Jews who knew about their new king but did nothing with the knowledge they had been given?
3.) Or the Wise Men: actively following what they knew to be true, seeking after the One the Ancient Scriptures foretold of, and then going to Him in an attitude of reverence and worship with gifts as a sign of their faith?
Now is a good time to read or sing together the words to the worship song:
Come Let Us Worship and Bow Down:
Come let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the Lord, our God, our Maker.
Come let us worship and bow down
Let us kneel before the Lord, our God, and our Maker.
For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of his hand, and the sheep of his Hand.
JOHN 6:35, 47-51, 58
The word “Bethlehem” in the Hebrew language means “House of Bread.” Once again we see the perfection in God’s Holy Scriptures. It is especially fitting that Jesus, who later in His ministry years calls himself the “Bread of Life,” comes out of an obscure village set amidst wheat fields and named “A House of Bread.” Do you know Jesus as your daily bread? Is He the One who sustains and satisfies you? The French people have an old custom to eat bread with every meal. The bread is a symbol of life to them and it is even considered improper to ever throw any bread away! This, by the way, is where we get our recipe for “French Toast.” The French created “French Toast” by dunking their stale bread, which they are not allowed to throw away, into milk and eggs. We would do well to model after the French custom in regards to the Living Bread we are given every day through Christ Jesus. Let us regard Jesus as the very essence of life, never wasting the nutrients awaiting us in His Living Word. The French have bread at every meal; likewise, let us eat of the Living Bread every day—as we continually make Jesus the essence of our lives.
I SAMUEL 16: 1-13
This passage tells of Samuel anointing David, a young overlooked shepherd boy whom God appointed to be the future king of Israel. The first verse of this passage tells us it was Bethlehem where God sent Samuel, His prophet, to call out the next King after Saul. A man known as Jesse of Bethlehem was David’s father as well as the father of David’s older and ‘finer’ brothers. This story gives us the well known verse, “man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” What an encouragement this story is to all of us, but especially children of all ages! God makes it clear that you are never too young, or insignificant, to be noticed by God. God has a plan for all His children who seek Him with all their hearts, even the youngest ones!
It is also important for the sake of prophecy to note that Mary, Jesus’ birth mother, was a direct descendent of David. This explains why Mary and Joseph, even though they did not live in Bethlehem at the time of Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus, traveled to Bethlehem for the royal census when everyone was called to report to their place of origin. Thus, a seven hundred year old scripture, foretelling the Messiah would come from the line of David and be born in Bethlehem, was fulfilled on that first Christmas Day!
Samuel was obedient when God told him to go to Bethlehem, specifically the House of Jesse, for the anointing of Israel’s next king. Years later, Mary and Joseph were obedient to the law of their day to go to Bethlehem to register for the census, even though Mary was well on her way with child. The Wise Men were obedient to the knowledge they were given as they followed the star, which led them to the Baby King from the Ancient of Days.
We, too, must be obedient to whatever place or situation in life God is calling us. Children, think about the ways you can be obedient to God in your every day? (With your parents…in your school… doing your chores…) And parents, do you have an attitude of obedience unto God in your every day? (Your work…your family…your neighborhood…your church…) Take a moment to bow your heads in silence and let God speak to your heart. Ask Him to show you where He is calling you to be more obedient.
His instructions to us are not pointless. Like the prophecies that came true through the obedience of God’s people, there are reasons, usually beyond our understanding—and maybe even greater than we can imagine, to His calling of obedience in our lives.
GENESIS 48:7, 35:20; MATTHEW 2:18; 1 SAMUEL 16:1, 17:12, 20:6; 2 SAMUEL 23:14-15
Bethlehem had already been a place of history for God’s people for the preceding 2000 years before Jesus was even born. In Genesis, we see Rachel, the wife of Abraham’s grandson Jacob, die in the fields of Bethlehem while in childbirth. Jacob set up a memorial stone by her grave that can still be seen today. Later, Ruth—King David’s great-grandmother, was married in Bethlehem to a man named Boaz, the Kinsman-redeemer of her mother-in-law’s family. We have already learned that King David’s childhood home was also in Bethlehem. Later when David was being hunted by Saul in the barren hills of the Judean desert, David longs for the water of Bethlehem, and his three best men risked their lives to bring it to him. In the New Testament, when King Herod is threatened by the prophecy of the newborn king, he ordered all the male children who had been born in and around the village of Bethlehem and who were two years old and younger—to be killed. Rachel’s name appeared again in Scripture, representing all the mothers of Bethlehem who were weeping over the loss of their children and refused to be comforted.
Bethlehem has always been connected with Israel’s history and with the line of King David, from which Jesus was prophesied to come. Bethlehem’s greatest moment was foretold in Micah; that from Bethlehem the Jews will see their Messiah’s birth. Although we have pictured the birth scene in a stable, it was probably a cave as the houses in Bethlehem were built on the slopes of a limestone ridge with many cave-like stables hollowed out under the houses in the rock. Whether in a stable or a cave, God’s Holy Scriptures prove themselves to be true over a time period of 2000 years.
MATTHEW 2: 9-11
When the Wise Men reached Bethlehem, the Scriptures say, “They were overjoyed.” After long weeks of searching and following the only light they had, the Wise Men not only found every hope fulfilled in Christ, but so much more! In response to their joy and their active faith, they bowed down in worship and gave their treasures to this new king. The treasures, which the Wise Men had once thought to be their most treasured possessions, were now surrendered to the One who had become their new treasure. It is very interesting to note these gifts and their significance in that time period.
Gold: Gold was the gift most suited for a king. It also represented the treasure of one’s heart, as it is the most precious of all metals even today.
Frankincense: Frankincense was used in the Jewish custom for the worshipping of God. It represented prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.
Myrrh: Myrrh was a sweet fragrance and substance that was used to preserve a dead body.
How fitting were these Wise Men’s gifts of worship for this newborn King of the Jews: gold for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, frankincense for God Incarnate, and myrrh for The Lamb of God who takes away our sins through His death and resurrection.
LUKE 2: 8-10
In the day and age of Jesus’ birth, shepherds were not esteemed as we might like to imagine. Shepherds were actually the lowliest of their society and could possibly be compared to the homeless of our day. The shepherds did not usually have homes or families of their own. They wandered from place to place and were considered dirty physically and unclean spiritually. It was rare to see a shepherd ever enter the temple or take part in religious customs in any way, as they knew their place in their culture.
But obviously God did not! Here in this passage, we see God inviting shepherds to be the first people to mingle with Him.
When the angels appeared to the shepherds singing, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests,” Scripture tells us that the shepherds went quickly to Bethlehem and found Mary, Joseph, and a baby lying in a manger (a feeding trough). The angels reached out to these shepherds by letting the shepherds know that this was Christ the Lord. The shepherds were the lowliest men on the face of the earth that night, but after being the first ones to see this newborn King, they became the most blessed men on earth! The shepherds gave praises and glory to God and it was the shepherds whom God chose to use to spread the word throughout the land of the arrival of a savior for mankind! What a beautiful story to show us God’s grace and love for all people of all positions and places in the world. He desires all to come to Him and receive His glory! The world may choose to have outcasts, but God chooses the outcasts to behold His glory and to pass it on to others! God is inviting you, no matter your age, rank, appearance or abilities, to come to Him through the precious gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, who is one with God Himself!