December the 19th finds us in the book of Micah chapter 5, verse 2:
“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.”
This verse is a prophecy about the coming Messiah, about His birthplace. He would be born in Bethlehem. The name Bethlehem means "house of bread" because it was a grain producing area in Old Testament times. It would later become known as "the City of David". The name Ephrathah means "fruitful" because of its many vineyards and olive groves. Bethlehem was the birthplace of David and he was anointed king there. In 1 Samuel chapter 16, verse 1 we are told:
The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”
After David's seven older brothers had passed before Samuel we see David, the youngest, anointed king. In 1 Samuel chapter 16 verse, 13 we are told:
So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.
Jesse was David's father. We saw in the December 9th blog post that the Messiah would come through Jesse's roots, through the prophecy found in Isaiah chapter 11, verse 1:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The word "Branch" in this verse is a title applying to the Messiah.
Now, in the New Testament, we see in the Gospel of Luke chapter 2, verses 1-3:
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria). And everyone went to their own town to register.
This is the order that eventually takes Joseph and his wife Mary to Bethlehem to give birth to Jesus, the long awaited Messiah. You remember from the genealogies that both Joseph and Mary are from the line of David. That's what is taking them to Bethlehem, the city of David, for the census. Joseph is now confident in the promise made to his wife by God, spoken through the angel Gabriel. From his own dream, in which an angel spoke to him and told him that he should not be afraid to take Mary as his wife, Joseph knows that Mary was telling him the truth. He may not be confident in his own role in all this but, he will get further dreams telling him what he needs to know and to do. I think Joseph will grow more confident as the days go by.
There are two ornaments that go beside the tree tonight. The first is a small, black silhouette of the town of Bethlehem. The second is a small scroll with the word "Census" printed on the top of it.