Daily Reading: (Micah 5:2):
“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.”
El Niño as you might know is a tropical Pacific Ocean condition where surface water along the Equator warms up to temperatures above normal, the change in weather pattern affects the entire world, just as the birth of Christ did as well. The name came from locals along the coasts of Peru and Chile. El Niño if you noticed is always capitalized. In Spanish, El Niño means “The Boy.” It’s not just any boy. They were talking about Jesus Christ. During an El Niño cycle the wind along the coastline switches from blowing from the east to blowing from the west. With an easterly wind there is a dry wind in a normally very dry area- a desert. The westerly wind during an El Niño is a wetter wind. Rain increases and one nice benefit in some parts of Peru and Chile is the ability to grow food in a desert. This change in wind direction normally shows up around Christmas. So, El Niño is known to represent a “Christmas rain gift from the Christ Child, Jesus Christ.
I absolutely love this because the Chileans and the Peruvians celebrate the abnormal weather pattern as a good gift from God. They said let’s name it after the One who is the bread of life, and provides us food in the desert so every time it happens, all glory to God through Jesus the Son. El Niño!
Jesus’ birth is the reason we celebrate Christmas. Christ has had enormous impact throughout the world and in a lot of ways it has made the seemingly impossible possible (like growing food in a desert) those who were dead in sin, have been given new life. Jesus as our bread of life.
So just as a meteorologist would give the announcement that El Nino is coming, we had an announcement of Jesus’ coming birth and where it would take place.
“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).
Micah is writing at the same time as his contemporary Isaiah in the 8th century before Christ when Assyria captured the northern kingdom and took the ten tribes into captivity. So, the question of Israel’s future was heavy in his mind. What now God? Maybe you have been contemplating your future with the same question, “what’s next?”
Bethlehem was such a strange choice to announce the future birthplace of the Messiah. It was small and humble, yet God chooses to bring his magnificent Messiah out of this town. Why? God chooses the lowly so we can’t boast in merits.
So What do we know about Bethlehem?
Bethlehem was in the district of Ephratah. Bethlehem Ephrathah is an old name for Bethlehem meaning “fruitful”. “It was at Bethlehem that Ruth went forth to glean in the fields of Boaz. In the streets of Bethlehem did Boaz and Ruth receive a marriage blessing which made them fruitful (Ephratah).
In Genesis 35:19 Bethlehem became a place of sorrow as it was the burial of Rachel the wife of Jacob who died giving birth to Benjamin. Before she died, Rachel named her son Ben Oni (“son of my mourning”). Jacob changed his name to Ben Yamin (Benjamin). “son of the right or south” since Benjamin was the only one of Jacob’s sons born in Canaan, which is to the south of Paddan Aram. “Benjamin was a more appropriate name”. Do you want your child to remember by their name that their mother died giving birth to them? Benjamin’s birth in Bethlehem was a foreshadowing of the birth of Jesus to come. The name change from Ben Oni (son of sorrow) to Ben Yamin (son of the south) was appropriate because the baby born in a manger was to become the real “Man of Sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3).
We already discovered that Ephratah means fruitful but Bethlehem itself means “house of bread” as Jesus came to be the Bread of Life and offer Himself as the provision for the needs of men. We are as Christ followers supposed to feed on Him daily, not just during the Advent season. Because of the Bread of Life nourishes our soul as we fill our hearts and minds with His Word.
The deepest meaning of the littleness of Bethlehem is that Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is an announcement that God does not bestow the blessings of the Messiah (the blessings of salvation) on the basis of our greatness or our merit or our achievement. So, let us say with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest!” Not glory to us. We get the joy. God gets the glory look at what He has done. In the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Christ living in us, the Bread of Life, will make us to be Ephratah (fruitful).