Christmas Characters – Bethlehem/Joseph


Okay, I do tend to label things characters that are not breathing (Light and Dark) but if you look past a small group of mud houses there is much to warrant Bethlehem’s inclusion as a character and not just a setting.  Go past the town to see Judah- the land and family.  Judah as a tribe is singled out by Jacob to be the ruler of his brothers in Genesis 49: 8-12.  Moses continues that thought in Deuteronomy 33: 7. (The inheritance of the tribe of Simeon is completely inside that of Judah.)  The first mention of Bethlehem is connected to the burial of Rachel after the birth of Benjamin – Genesis 35 + 48.

Bethlehem is mentioned in twelve Old Testament books and three in the New Testament.  It is used 52 times in the NIV – 44 and 8.  It is part of three stories in Judges – Chapters 12, 17, 19.  It is central in the story of Ruth and thus becomes the birthplace of King David.  

The prophet Micah (5: 2) delivers the message that ties Bethlehem to Christmas and that verse is used in Matthew 2 by the priest to direct the Wise Men.  That chapter is very prophetic, take some time and read it.  Micah did write this word of hope during a trouble time in Israel.

The song “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is a real Gospel praise song if you will read all four of its verses. The link below was a good site – history, quizzes, other carols.

I would like to treat Bethlehem, now as Joseph/the Tribe of Judah.  (Please bear with this strange study method.)  If we compare and contrast Joseph with Bethlehem and Judah/Israel/religion there are several things worth noting.

  • Judah had lost its prophetic position as ruler. (True, King Jesus was coming, but Herod had questionable Jewish heritage; Rome was in charge; the Chief Priest may have been controlling things outside the Temple).  Zerubbabel (governor in Haggai and Zechariah), a type and ancestor of Jesus, may have been the last powerful governor in Judah. 
  • Bethlehem had no room except a stable, Joseph was going to put Mary away, Jerusalem was troubled when they found out about Jesus. Jesus was not a welcomed!
  • An angel had to appear to Joseph to change his mind, angels appeared to shepherds to change the mind of Bethlehem to welcome the Family.  Jerusalem, not sure it ever changed its mind.

Other thoughts about the Christmas story:

  • We honor Mary because she was blessed and God did great things for her (Luke 1: 48, 49). But I wonder who God picked first – Joseph or Mary?  Father God tends to start with the man and then add the women to complete the work.  Even though the women may be introduced first in the story and is the central character who is considered first?  Okay to answer my own question – it seems the couples are paired to complement each other. Ruth is a role model but Boaz was the only one in the family willing to marry her!  Mary was the willing vessel but Joseph was needed to care and protect her and Jesus.
  • Considering travel and Mary’s condition after childbirth the circumcision of Jesus probably occurred at Bethlehem.  Then on the way back to Nazareth, they went to Jerusalem for the dedication of Jesus at the end of the forty days.  (The rule here is in Exodus 13, Numbers 8 and 18, the time was set in Leviticus 12: 8.) The other possibility is they stayed in Bethlehem for two years but that means Joseph still had a house and business in Nazareth.
  • When Herod searched for the baby Jesus I would have no doubt that Bethlehem would have given up the Family once they learned who the soldiers were looking for.  The shepherds and the possibility of the thirty to forty-day stay would have been mentioned to try and save their sons. It would also make sense that the “records” were searched and the death squad went to Nazareth. Herod was not just mean but crazy and jealous for his power.
  • Jeremiah 31 does not mention Bethlehem weeping for the children.  He prophesied Ramah and Rachel (yes, she was buried near there) which could extend the murders well past Bethlehem.  Rachel’s family was Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin.  She was also the “loved” wife which could bring another level into this thought. 
  • I know that Joseph taking the Family to Egypt was necessary.  So, I am glad he was not like Simon Peter in his early days.  With all of the hype from the shepherds they could have started a revolution.  That would not have been good for the Prince of Peace!

FURTHER THOUGHT – Compare Joseph (in Matthew and Luke) to Joseph in Genesis.

https://www.carols.org.uk/o_little_town_of_bethlehem.htm  a nice website covering Christmas carols  

Christmas Verses – The First Coming #22

Jeremiah 31:15 NIV

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”

After the Wise Men tricked Herod he fulfilled this verse. The boys (children) are referred to as the Innocent and there is a feast day for them.  This verse came in the middle of an encouragement (10 – 17) that was to bring hope to Israel.  

Christmas – The Wise Men

Christmas – The Wise Men

Epiphany, the day the Wise Men show up to worship Jesus. It marks the end of the copy-wisemen-2.jpgTwelve Days of Christmas (See Epiphany or Three Kings Day) and in some countries, it is celebrated with as much enthusiasm as December 25th. Matthew 2: 1-18 record the story in the New Testament (See Magi and Herod for OT verses). Matthew, who starts with Joseph’s family line, continues telling the story from “Joseph’s viewpoint.” (The angelic dreams and his reactions.) Even if you combine Matthew and Luke’s narratives there are a lot of unanswered questions. I guess there should be but we can look at what we know.

Mary and Joseph being good Jewish parents fulfill the requirements of the Law with the trip to the Temple. There they receive blessings and prophecies to settle both Joseph’s and Mary’s fears and doubts. For us, facts are added like Luke stating, “they went to Nazareth and Jesus grew” while Matthew tells the story of the Magi and the trip to Egypt all starting from a “house.” But I have a feeling that times and locations are not what is important here.

The Magi or Wise Men were the scholars and learned men of the day. They counseled kings and influenced decisions. They are found in Daniel and other books of the Bible like Ezekiel 21: 21 checking the “liver” for the king so he knows which way to go. What they represent in the Christmas story is huge. These are Gentiles/heathen (us) acknowledging Jesus and his kingship. They are the college professors of the day following their studies and observations looking for a baby that was talked about in Jewish scriptures. It was no little trip for them to show up in Judea looking for a king, several months of travel were required and the supplies and then the gifts. I would guess it was not just three guys on camels it may have well been a caravan(s) with guards and servants. Were they sent as a diplomatic envoy?

Plus them showing upset Herod off so that the prophecies in Jeremiah 31:15 and Hosea 11:1 would be fulfilled – Herod killing the babies and Jesus coming out of Egypt.