“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.”
Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be our peace
O little town of Bethlehem. How little was it? It had a population of 250-300 people and was located on top of a hill, southwest of Jerusalem. It was considered the least of all the clans of Judah. It is from this little town – a village by modern standards- that God chose to Incarnate. God has a habit of going to the least, the outcast, the marginalized.
While born in Bethlehem, Jesus grew up in Nazareth and as one of his future disciples said “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (John 1:46)
God is no respecter of place. He didn’t care if it would have been natural for someone as great as the Messiah to be born somewhere important, like Jerusalem. God isn’t interested in prestige or fancy buildings or nice clothes or anything else we tend to be enthralled by. No, Jesus came, as Mary sang, to scatter the proud, bring down rulers from their thrones, and feed the hungry. (Luke 2:51-53) God has a habit of doing the unexpected, of choosing the unlikely, and the places and people that are belittled or put down by more reputable folks are just the ones God wants to use.
Which makes me think of Sydney Mines. I know of folks in Sydney who won’t let their kids come and hang out in Sydney Mines because they think it’s too dangerous. Sydney Mines, as pointed out in last Sunday’s service, also has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the province at 37%. People don’t expect much from here. There are those who would say, “What good could possibly come from Sydney Mines?” Of course, those of us who live here know there are lots of good people here, and lots of people trying to help those in need. But those quiet stories of good don’t make the news.
But a place with a reputation like Sydney Mines is just the kind of place God likes to work. I have no questions for you to consider today, rather I have a prayer request. Spend some time today, and even every day, and pray about what God can do here in our town. Perhaps he is already up to something. Perhaps he is planting a dream in someone’s heart. Pray about what we can do as a church community to be a light and a place of hope and healing in the community. If you are reading this from elsewhere, you can certainly pray for us too! But what might God be up to in your town or neighbourhood and how can you join him?
Let us pray.
Thank you God that our social standing has no bearing on how you can work in or through us. We don’t have to be bigger or better or anything else, we are enough as we are and if we are humble enough to listen for your word to us we can, like Bethlehem, be a source of hope to the world around us. Help us to listen as we pray. Help us to hear what you are up to and how we can help. Help us to be part of bringing a glimpse of your kingdom to the place we live in. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.