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Great Things from Small Places



In the 19th century the whole world was watching the campaigns of Napoleon with great concern. There was talk everywhere of marches, invasions, battles and bloodshed as the French dictator pushed his way through Europe. Babies were born at that time, but who had time to think about babies or to care about cradles or nurseries when the international scene was filled with such turmoil? Between Trafalgar and Waterloo there stole into the world a host of heroes whose lives were destined to shape history. But who had time to think of babies while Napoleon was on the move?

Take the year 1809. All eyes were on Austria because that is where the blood was flowing freely. In one campaign after another, Napoleon swept through that nation. Nobody cared about babies in 1809, but when you check history, your realize that some special people were born that year. Take for example William Gladstone, destines to become one of England’s finest statesmen, and Alfred Tennyson, who would one day make a profound mark on the literary world. Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in Cambridge, and not far away in Boston, Edgar Allen Poe began his eventful albeit tragic life. It was also 1809 that a physician named Darwin named his baby Charles Robert. And in that same year, the cries of a newborn infant could be heard in Hardin County, Kentucky, where Abraham Lincoln was born.

If we could turn back time and read the headlines from 1809, they would say something about how the destiny of the world was being changed on the battlefield of Austria. But was it? It’s funny, but only a handful of history buffs could probably name only two or three of those Austrian campaigns today. Looking back, history was not being shaped on the battlefields of Austria. It was being changed in the nurseries of England and America.

In 4 B.C., no one in the Roman Empire could have cared less about babies either, especially the birth of Jewish ones in small towns like Bethlehem. Rome ruled the world and history was being made. But was it? About 7 centuries before Christ was born, a prophet named Micah predicted to Israel that their future hope lie in the coming of Messiah. As they surveyed the devastation of the nation, Micah gave words of assurance that God did have a plan for their redemption and restoration. His prophecy seemed strange to some, for he announced that the greatest would come from the least. The Messiah was to be born in the humble town of Bethlehem.

Bethlehem means, “house of bread.” In history it was the setting for the book of Ruth—the famous love story. Later it would be the birthplace and childhood home of a boy who would become Israel’s greatest King—King David. Other than that, Bethlehem was known for two other things. It was a place where sheep were raised. Most of Bethlehem’s labor force was involved in breeding and raising sheep. It was also known as a place of shelter. Only 5 miles from Jerusalem, it was a popular overnight stop for weary travelers. Bethlehem was a town of no significance. But when Jesus came to town, it became transformed into a place of greatness. Today the town has worldwide fame. That’s a wonderful analogy of the transformation that Jesus brings. Christ takes the ordinary and transforms it into something significant, valuable and meaningful.

Categories : Advent, Christmas

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