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Monday, December 21, 2020

Moravian star in Bethlehem, PA
Moravian Star in the cupola of the Moravian Church in Bethlehem, PA

"A Visit To Bethlehem"

Message summary: Today there are those who struggle with coming to faith in Christ because they don’t have the whole picture or they have a misconception. And some who do believe have struggles with their faith concerning issues that just may not make sense to them.

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times" (Micah 5:2).

Two weeks ago we shared a message titled "Yet In Thy Dark Streets Shineth" based on a line in Phillips Brooks' well-known Christmas song, "O Little Town Of Bethlehem". Phillips had written the song in the 1860's following a visit to the Holy Land and specifically Bethlehem.

Yesterday following our church service we visited Bethlehem (Pennsylvania, that is), which is about 85 miles northeast of us. Our trip was a lot closer and surely less strenuous than Phillips Brooks' trip to the Holy Land in the 1860's! On the way up we stopped to have lunch in Ephrata, named after the Ephratha in our text, but located right here in Lancaster County.

We went to Bethlehem primarily for an event known as "Christmas in the Quarter" but ended up walking all around the downtown portion of the city of about 75,000.
Bethlehem, referred to as the "Christmas City", has a rich colonial and industrial history. (The "Quarter" is the most historic, colonial portion of the city.)

Here's the account of Bethlehem's founding:

On Christmas Eve of 1741 David Nitschmann and Count Zinzendorf, leading a small group of Moravians, founded the mission community of Bethlehem at the juncture of the Monocacy and Lehigh. They came to set up missionary communities among the Native Americans and unchurched German-speaking Christians, naming the settlement after the Biblical town Bethlehem of Judea, the birthplace of Jesus.

Count Zinzendorf said, "Brothers, how more fittingly could we call our new home than to name it in honor of the spot where the event we now commemorate took place. We will call this place Bethlehem."

The Biblical Bethlehem is an ancient city, first mentioned in Genesis 35 as the burial place for Rachel. It is the scene of two rather sordid stories in the Book of Judges. Later it is the place where David was anointed king.

Perhaps the most well-known OT reference is in Micah where a Messianic prophecy states, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times”
(Micah 5:2). This very verse was used in Matthew 2:5,6 when Herod inquired from the chief priests and teachers of the law where the Messiah would be born.

The final reference to Bethlehem in the Bible is a question from skeptics in John 7: "Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. Some wanted to seize Him, but no one laid a hand on Him" (41-44).

I don't recall ever paying much attention to this passage before but I believe there's a lesson here. Jesus was indeed from Galilee, where he grew up. The skeptics correctly recognized that the Messiah would come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem. However they weren't aware that this was indeed the case. The gospels were not written till after Christ left this earth and they were unaware of this important detail, which makes me wonder; how many of them may have come to faith when they learned the full account?

Today there are those who struggle with coming to faith in Christ because they don’t have the whole picture or they have a misconception. Just last week I was speaking to Kevin, a man who grew up in the Bay area of California, where his dad was a District Attorney and then judge but was a skeptic concerning the things of Christ. My friend, who had become a believer, encouraged him to read “The Case For Christ” written by Lee Strobel, a former agnostic himself. Facing the evidence that Strobel provided, he became convinced of the claims of Christ and, although older in life, became a believer and follower of Christ!

But some who do believe have struggles with their faith concerning issues that just may not make sense to them. I have had this experience and still do with some issues. There are some things we just don't understand fully and have to wait on. Even Paul acknowledged, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When don't see His plan
When you can't trace His hand
Trust His Heart

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying man Daily prayer: Father, today we join with Phillips Brooks who wrote this prayer put to music some 160 years ago: "O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend on us, we pray. Cast out our sin, 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. Amen.

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Thank you,

Stephen & Brooksyne

Today we will share some photos from our visit to Bethlehem yesterday.

Bethlehem, PA at Christmas time. 
Bethlehem, PA at Christmas time. Following the carriage is the police mounted unit.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Bethlehem, PA at Christmas time.
The Moravian Church. Our lead photo shows a close-up of the star in the cupola at night. It isn't often you see a church stairway that ascends and descends from two directions.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Bethlehem, PA at Christmas time.
The Christmas wreaths sure dress up these attractive doors. Bethlehem reminds of Lititz, here in Lancaster County, which was also established by the Moravians just 14 years after Bethlehem, PA.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Bethlehem, PA at Christmas time.
One of the colonial buildings is the old quarter, the waterworks.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Bethlehem, PA at Christmas time.
A scene in front of the Hotel Bethlehem
Enlarge this photo and you will see that the woman is taking a photo of a couple who are hugging. This is Hotel Bethlehem, a beautiful building, and rated by USA Today the #2 historical hotel in America, losing out to The Peabody Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

“Trust His Heart”  Video  The Booth Brothers  This is the song we quoted from at the end of our message. It is not a Christmas song but these lyrics sure relate to our message!

"Born In Bethlehem"  Video   Third Day

Here's the traditional Christmas carols, including "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" that we sang at Calvary Church yesterday with strings accompaniment. It also includes the instrumental prelude.  Video The 2nd set of worship selections including "O Holy Night" in a beautiful arrangement.  Video

"Hope Has A Name"  Video   Kristian Stanfill

Hope has a name
The Light of the World
Who broke through the darkness

"Can anything good come out of Bethlehem?"  In preparing for this message I recalled this question. Of course the text actually says "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" But this thoughtful blog article gives a good history of Biblical Bethlehem.

"Christmas in the Quarter"

Resources for Christmas Celebrations
(We will leave these resources posted below our daily messages through Christmas)

Each year we share several online resources that we have used over the years and that may be a blessing to you, your family or church during this Christmas season.

"In Remembrance of Me" pdf  This is a passion-filled Scripture reading for two adults. Brooksyne and I have used this reading with great receptivity during Christmas Eve services over the years.  We suggest, if possible, a musical background as the message is read. It is also a great lead-in to a Communion service. It should be thoroughly practiced and read with great feeling. Here's a great Communion Hymn for Christmas (Video)

"When Christ Was Born" pdf This is an adaptation to the tune of "How Great Thou Art". It's a great song to sing as a congregation since most are familiar with and love the tune.

Responsive Christmas Scripture readings for church or family:
John 1:1-18  pdf
"O Come Let Us Adore Him" pdf

My First Christmas In Heaven This is a blessed reminder for all who lost a loved one this year. This page was first posted in 2005 soon after my Mom passed away.

Christmas Knowledge Test

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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