The Old Testament tells us very little about the small town of Bethlehem. Chronicles tells us that Salma, Caleb’s son, was the “father of Bethlehem” meaning that he was the founder, but we are not sure of any other information of Bethlehem’s beginnings. Rachel, Jacob’s wife, is known to this day as being buried in a tomb near the town. We are also told that this particular village was the birthplace of David who eventually became the legendary king of Israel. He was a shepherd of his father’s flock in the fields of this area. This is where he was anointed king of Israel who would follow Saul’s reign. It is also the setting of much of the book of Ruth which traces King David’s heritage. Later in Old Testament history, Micah prophesies that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. In chapter five verses two through five Micah says,
2 “ But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”
3 Therefore He shall give them up,
Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth;
Then the remnant of His brethren Shall return to the children of Israel.
4 And He shall stand and feed His flock
In the strength of the LORD,
In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God;
And they shall abide, For now He shall be great
To the ends of the earth;
5 And this One shall be peace.”
It was fitting for the Messianic “Son of David” to be born in David’s birthplace.
I. Bethlehem – House of Bread
After bringing to light all of these details one would assume that Bethlehem had a rather significant position in the minds of Hebrew people, but that is not the case. From Old Testament times into the 1st Century, Bethlehem was fundamentally irrelevant. A small village five miles south of Jerusalem where there were fertile fields and lots of shepherding was all that came to mind for the average Jew. “The House of Bread” is what the name Bethlehem means. Yet, for the ancients, there was not much significance in the name either. For Christians, there is great significance!
"Christmas Was and Is for Salvation
John 3:16–17, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, [that’s Christmas and Good Friday all in one - why?] that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world [Christmas is not for condemnation],
but in order that the world might be saved through him [Christmas is for salvation].”
And at the end of his life, Jesus was standing before Pilate, and Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” And Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world [this is the purpose of Christmas—what is it?]—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37)."
II. I Am the Bread of LifeJohn 6: 47 “’Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.’”
Jesus said He came for a purpose. He was born in Bethlehem, the House of Bread, for a purpose. His purpose was to bear witness to the truth. And what is the truth? Who is the truth? Jesus. Bread was essential for life and family for those who encountered Jesus and so He says that he is the bread of life. If we eat of His bread we will not die and the bread he offers is Himself. Christ offered up Himself as a sacrifice – Once for All. We consume the Bread of Life by believing in God’s Son and digesting His Word. This leads to my final point.
III. This is My Body
Matthew 26: 26 “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’”
The beginning of Christ’s first advent, the middle of His first advent, and now we see the end were marked by the staple of life in the 1st century world. His entire incarnation was represented by bread; His birth, ministry, and death. The Lord’s Supper is about the Bread of Life that came down from heaven. Who was incarnate first in Bethlehem, the House of Bread. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and birthed by Mary who had never known a man.
Conclusion: The Bread that came down from heaven descended first to the little village of Bethlehem which means “House of Bread.” That Bread is the Lord Jesus Christ who later said, “I Am the Bread of Life” and “Take, eat; this is My body.” That bread has no yeast. He was the sinless Son of God who came in the likeness of sinful man. This is the 1st Advent. From the beginning of His incarnation to the end He was represented by the most essential part of life in the ancient world- BREAD. If I polled each one of you this morning and asked what you thought was the staple food of American existence I would probably get a dozen or more different answers. Some of you may say bread, others may say eggs or something, and many of you would say potatoes. My grandfather likes to tell the story of his childhood when seemingly every meal was some variation of potato. He said that his mother once fixed potatoes seven different ways and spread them out on the table for a big meal! Yet, today we do not quite understand what it means to have a staple food that we rely on day in and day out. Bread was vital for families of ancient times. That is why Jesus teaches His disciples to pray along the lines of “Give us this day our daily bread.” Bread was something sought after daily for life to continue!
Jesus must be sought after daily for life to continue! He is truly the Bread of Life. If I can accomplish anything with this sermon I would hope for two things:
* 1. When you think of Christmas, think of the cross. *
* 2. When you think of the Lord’s Supper, think of the Bread of Life. *
The first Christmas, and every Christmas since has been about one thing- the cross of Christ. Revelation 13:8 says that the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world. Before the world was created and Adam was formed, there was a plan. (And I hesitate to use the word plan because it does not convey the necessity and certainty of what was to happen). There was no doubt that before history Christ would intrude history; no doubt that before time Christ would interrupt time. That is why John could open his Gospel account with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Though Christmas has passed, it will come again, as each year of history flows. Yet, the greatest event of history continues to endure- the cross of Christ. The cross binds us together, saints of old and saints to come. To us who are being saved the cross is the power of God. May God forbid that we should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ during the year 2011.