Advent 2017: Joy to the World: Day 6

The Glory of Little Bethlehem

by

Today's Text: Micah 5:2-6, Numbers 24:17-18, Luke 2:4, John 7:40-44, John 10:11-18

Scripture Reading: Micah 5:2-6, Numbers 24:17-18, Luke 2:4, John 7:40-44, John 10:11-18

The Christian life, it seems, is a constant trading in of “big” things for seemingly “small” ones.

We exchange the bravado of pride for the posture of humility.
We surrender the booming voice of self for the quiet whisper of the Holy Spirit.

Each Christmas season highlights this tension. We are drawn to the bigger and the better: bigger gifts, bigger budgets, bigger light displays. And yet, since the very first Christmas, Christ has compelled us to look away from the “big stuff” that seems so significant. Quietly, He invites us to strain our eyes and bow our hearts to see the wonder of the small. But this invitation did not start with the tiny baby in the tiny manger. God was attentive to making sure every detail of His arrival was understated “from ancient days” (Micah 5:2).

Here, in Micah 5, we find God’s people under attack and in distress (v.1). Any small glimmer of hope becomes momentous when our lives are under siege. We latch on to any news that better days are ahead when the day we’re in the midst of threatens to overtake us. So we can surely celebrate with the citizens of Zion because as enemies surrounded them, hope started to spark.

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler of Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient of days” (v.2).

Look around. If we hand-picked the details of the Christmas story, we’d prioritize grand above modest, spectacular above common, big above small. We’d likely dismiss Mary and Joseph as too unremarkable, the stable as too drab, and Bethlehem as too small and seemingly insignificant. Yet, as we trace God’s hand throughout all of Scripture, it’s clear God does not assign value according to our scale.

This fixation with the small stuff was as confusing to the people who encountered Jesus as it often is for us. In the Gospel of John, we find folks bickering over Micah’s prophecy (John 7:40-44). They knew the Messiah would come from the the hometown of David, but because mankind tends to have a collective obsession with bigger, shinier things, the point missed its mark in their hearts.

Bethlehem wasn’t chosen as the epicenter for redemption because David made it famous. It was chosen for its smallness.

Bethlehem was a small, sleepy town, handpicked by God to incubate a spark of hope until it burst into flames. In the same way, our own smallness points to the greatness of God. There is nothing we can do about our brokenness. Yet, like Bethlehem, our sin works like an epicenter for hope when we trade it in for the humongous grace God offers.

When we exchange our obsession with making all things bigger and better, we are free to see that the promise delivered to God’s people through Micah is ours to hold on to this Christmas.

“And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.”
- Micah 5:4

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Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

  • Shawna Clayton

    I also needed this. I’m about to graduate from grad school with basically no money in a small town. It’s hard to feel like I cannot match the greatness or value of what is given to me, even when I know it comes out of purely generous hearts. It’s hard not to want to be able to reciprocate those gifts! But circumstances force me to remember that small things can be beautiful too. God still looks at the heart, so how can we emulate that in what we give to others this season??

  • Thank you for the truth is this scripture today. I needed this reminder.

  • Kelsey Bender

    I really needed this! I tried very hard to be simple this Christmas and only got what was necessary and useful for my family and friends. It’s so commercialized now and although I partake in gift giving, I’m primarily excited for my Christmas service. I miscarried in June and my church is holding a service for those grieving loved ones this season. All I’ve wanted as a gift was my son, however, he is where he needs to be. With Him. Through this holiday season, I know that the best gift I may receive is the hopefulness that my son is being taken care of. ❤️

    • Lisa C

      Kelsey, I hope that the service at your church brought some peace. I miscarried just before Christmas 2 years ago and it was such a difficult holiday. Although I knew my son was with Jesus, I missed him terribly and wanted him here with us. Praying that you will draw near to the Comforter in your grief and that He will provide hope, healing and peace.

  • Such a Rich post Erin! Thank you for the encouragement and challenge to see things through Gods eyes and not strain for the bigger things that are not according to Him. So good!

  • Just as Bethlehem is small, so are we. My town is also small, a small girl from a small town and yet, God uses me. He’s taken this shy, anxious girl and lead people to Him. Once at camp I was set to give my testimony at campfire, something I’d done many times before. But this time when went to do up my draft I shrunk, words left me and some major spiritual warfare ensued. I eventually got it written down and was ready as I could be. When it came time for me to speak, I’d already cried most of the day and campfire away. A friend stood up with me as emotional support and in that moment of looking at all the kids and them looking back at me, I never felt so small. I was completely minuscule. BUT God still used me, He gave me words to speak and the kids learned from it. They saw God using a small, shaking, scared person who couldn’t even speak without squeezing the life out of her friend’s hand. But I knew that feeling small was precisely why I needed to speak. My glimmer of hope was my friend beside me, not leaving, holding my hand it was showing those kids that “camp family” isn’t just some label we use cause it sounds good. In retrospect I imagine Bethlehem felt similarly, small and seemingly unimportant but set to change the world, did I change the world with my testimony? no definitely not but campers did encounter God and how small I felt was not lost on them.

  • Gracie T

    Thank you for this beautiful message. “Any small glimmer of hope becomes momentous when our lives are under siege. We latch on to any news that better days are ahead when the day we’re in the midst of threatens to overtake us. So we can surely celebrate with the citizens of Zion because as enemies surrounded them, hope started to spark.” – Yes! Thankful for Jesus who gives us hope.

  • Gracie Brim

    It is so easy to lose sight of all the things that truly matter this season and especially easy to overlook where great glory exists. I pray I take time in the busyness of the season to reflect on the true reason of the season and to see where He is calling me to be present and do his work.

  • We must be faithful with the small things, disciplined in even the smallest of choices, and grateful for the small graces God bestows upon us each day.

    Thank you for this message!

  • Morgan Hoy

    I like the idea of true greatness being in the small things.

  • Alyssa Nelson

    As we trace God’s story of advent this Christmas, it’s clear God does not assign value according to our scale.

  • Such a simple thing that we need to be reminded of. Thank you for this. It spoke to my heart!

  • Ann Erwin

    I think of the Bible verses “the meek will inherit the land” and “the last become first”. The small acts of love and kindness given to others that may not even get noticed or affirmed – that is what matters. Especially during the Christmas season when we make such a big deal out of cookies, parties, dinners and gifts. I would rather have the praise of God for those small acts than the praise of man for the big.

  • I can’t read this without tearing up. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Profoundly moving. Every time.

  • as always, i needed this today!

  • Thank you God, Amen

  • Sarah Moore

    “…to see the wonder of the small…” This reading was exactly what I needed to be reminded of today. Lord, slow me down in this season. Thank you!

  • Kelly R Smith

    “Bethlehem wasn’t chosen as the epicenter for redemption because David made it famous. It was chosen for its smallness.” The idea of smallness reminds me of the miracle wrapped in a seed. The smallest seed can produce the largest of plants. It looks like nothing, but when planted, it produces something great. Thank you for this, Erin! Savoring the hope of small things this season!

    • Stephanie

      What a great analogy Kelly. We don’t have to be famous or have a huge following or a big bank account to do important things. Just by being faithful to God and loving him and his people we are working to further his kingdom.

  • Micahlee

    And he shall be their peace. Thank you lord for rest and peace as I head into my last college Christmas break

  • Lord help me to not miss you by being distracted by all the bright and shiny. Lord work in me that I would dwell in the splendor of your details.

  • Mich Okubo

    It has been quite empowering to deliberately choose not to decorate my home and to deliberately choose not to buy presents but donate instead.

    • SuzD

      I feel empowered as well by not being drawn in to the commercialization of this holy season.

  • Isn’t it so very human nature how we turn what was originally such a quiet and simple moment in history…the first Christmas…into a time for meaningless extravagance, as the author mentions…bigger and better gifts, budgets, decor, etc.
    How amazing that God uses the seemingly lack luster things of the world–David, shepherds, little Bethelehem, Jospeh and Mary, and you and I to reflect his glory!

  • Megan Cavanaugh

    Love the part about how God chose Bethlehem to spark hope until it burst into flames. God’s work is truly amazing!❤️

  • Hannah MaryCouch

    The scripture these past two days remind me of the singing Point of Grace called “Not That Far From Bethlehem.” I’m so grateful to have an app and community like this at my fingertips to bring me closer to Bethlehem and, more importantly, the Hope that came from it.

  • Jacqueline

    I have been struggling with this very thing lately! The big or the small! My own selfish hearts often desires bigger but praise God he is teaching me to not overlook the power and significance of the small! “God doesn’t assign value according to our scale” such a wonderful reminder! Our thoughts are not His thoughts, our ways are not His ways! Thank you God that you work in far greater ways than we can even imagine!

  • Emily Fiackos

    “…Our scale.” AMEN.❤️

  • Emily Fiackos

    “God does not assign value according to

  • Lehua K.

    Today’s message was so refreshing! It spoke to me that even our own lives might seem insignificant in lieu of the big picture of this world, but God can use us in big, beautiful ways for His Kingdom. We can still give Him Glory and make a difference in this world, one action at a time. We all matter.

    Have a blessed weekend, sisters.

  • Lord I was filled with an overwhelming anxiety before I opened today’s study and took time for You. For us. Thank You for filling my heart with calmness and love in this moment.

  • Catherine H.

    Lord, may the truth of your Word penetrate my heart today. May I reflect you to my husband and daughters.

  • Heather Gray

    LOVED-“Our own smallness points to the greatness of God.” More of You, less of me, Lord!!!

  • In so many ways, little things make up the important, the grand, the marvelous. Little moments matter! So much of our lives are made up of the small, the daily, and I find myself growing in gratitude and joy when I look for and appreciate the daily details of my life.

  • denise frasier

    i hoped in jesus christ son ofGod lord thank for sending your son to us that we might have eternal life.

  • Alyssa Galios

    It’s so much less about the THINGS & so much more about the MOMENTS. This time of year can make that reminder especially hard to hold onto but, I think the more we can choose to focus, to hold onto, to breathe into the little miracles around us… the easier and sweeter this season becomes. ❤️

  • Crystal Mendez

    May we all experience a spark of hope today as we remember our greatest hope is found in Jesus!

  • I certainly believe that God subverts our expectations and also the expectations of the Israelites who were waiting for a Mighty Savior to come in a “bigger” way. But I am concerned with this statement, “Bethlehem wasn’t chosen as the epicenter for redemption because David made it famous. It was chosen for its smallness.” Bethlehem WAS chosen for the very reason that David was from there as we see in the prophecies (for example Is. 11 that we read yesterday). Jesus is completing the story by fulfilling the longing of a King who would be/is even greater than David. And Israelites would not have missed this, understanding the lineage of Jesus, descended from Jesse and David, out of Bethlehem. We miss something significant to edit this from God’s plan of redemption. I don’t see the size of Bethlehem to be the explicit reason of Jesus’s placement of birth as this devotion strongly suggests. Rather, it was incredibly important and remarkable that Jesus was born in the hometown of David.

  • It just amazes me every single time I read about prophecies of Jesus in the Old Testament, God’s word is eternal and everlasting.

  • I’m so thankful for Jesus lovingkindness to us on the “outside”, being gentiles. John 10:16 “But I have other sheep…I must bring them also”. Our counter-cultural Jesus did it again reminding us he truly desires that “none should perish”! Thank you Jesus!

  • Something struck me about the lines from Micah 6. The messiah will shepherd with “the sword” and a “drawn blade”. Which is pretty much the opposite of what Jesus did when it comes to actual physical violence against other nations and peoples. It’s no wonder so many people failed to recognize Jesus as Christ as the time. They were expecting a military general and what they got was something much softer and quieter and smaller than that. But also also infinitely better. I can’t help but wonder how much of the expectation of Jesus coming to literally fight people was an artifact of the time and a misunderstanding people held. Like yesterday when the religious scholars couldn’t respond to why David would call Christ “Lord” if David was the messiah’s father. People were looking for a grand Human with divine inspiration, not an actual part of the divine.

    I don’t know where I’m going with this except that I agree that it’s the smallness of the story that makes it so amazing and unexpected!

  • Carol Statella

    Needed this so today while recovering and living in a smaller world right now.

  • Carol Statella

    Needed this so today. Being “made small” by minor illness

  • Tiffany Amerson

    In a world obsessed with what platform we stand on, God uses the story of His Son to show us that He can and wants to use each of us from the humble place we currently stand. I, like so many other have stated in the comments, wrestle with this concept regularly. Don’t I need a blog or a name for myself or a larger platform to be effective for Him? No. These Scriptures more than affirm that answer clearly. Discipleship opportunities are all around us, it we approach with humility, truth, and love…because of Him, not us and our platform.

  • Jesus our Peace was always coming… when the foundations of the earth were laid, so were the plans for Jesus to come and live amongst us. The plan was Divine! The plan was complicated, the plan was heartbreaking, and the plan was Eternal.❤️

  • Laura Andersen

    One thing I love about reading the “Christmas Story” specifically is how many promises and prophesies come together exactly as God said they would happen. I am comforted knowing that God’s Words are truer than we will ever know, and I can fully trust He will do what He says.

  • Hayley Lytle

    I love this. Not only is this a season where more things seem better but I think we feel pressure to do more within our communities, at our churches and in our social lives. It can often feel too busy and overwhelming but the obligation to do more is reinforced by social media, endless invites and opportunities to serve. Maybe we need to slow down, say no a few more times, “get small” and simplify in order to see all the big things He is doing in our lives and our communities during this time of go-go-go, more-more-more.

    • Bonnie

      Yes, I love the “small” moments of Christmas but in our current age, we have to pursue them.

    • Breanna

      YES, Hayley! This resonates with me so very much, and you said what I’m feeling so perfectly. I’ve been convicted too that Christmas shouldn’t be the only time we want more community and more fellowship. That desire should fill us all year, and we should seek out opportunities all year long to sit around the table and exchange gifts of thankfulness and love.

  • God’s word is always timely. Today I’m considering an offer for a new job. It seems bigger and better, but my current job was an unbelievable blessing from God after months of unemployment. So if you’re reading this, please pray that God would grant me wisdom, faith and humility to see His will in this decision. Thank you <3

    • LauraJ

      Praying!

    • Barbara

      Praying!

    • Melea

      Said a prayer for you, Laura. ❤️

    • KathyH

      Praying the Lord gives you wisdom and peace in your decision. I always pray that “red flags” are clearly visible if I am not to move forward and that I am bold and trusting enough to move forward, if He directs.

    • Churchmouse

      What a tender, sweet heart you have, Laura. Praying for clarity and wisdom

    • Cecilia

      Count on my prayers! He will definitely tell you exactly what to do.

  • I have always struggled with the magnitude of the Christmas season. It feels so false and distracting to me. The piles of presents, the overwhelming busyness, the constant overeating and mounds of glitter – what exactly are we celebrating, anyway? I want a tree with lights, my family around me laughing, and to be reminded of the enormity of God’s gift to us, that He came to earth to forgive us and to teach us to how to forgive one another. I want to feel tears of awe fill my eyes as we remember how big God is and how small we are – yet how completely and fully He loves us. Every year during this season, I feel like I am fighting against the riptide of commercialism, seeking only meaning when what I am told I should want is false and fleeting happiness. Lord, help me to create peaceful, joyful moments this season when we can remember how big Your daily gifts to us are, and help me to celebrate with the simplicity of the humble manger that helped change our world forever. Amen.

  • I’ve recently reached a big milestone and accomplishment in my life that was a big challenge as a young single mom. Lord, give me the courage and humility to point it all back to you. This is a bright time in my life, and it’s easy to focus on the big things. I pray that you will show me how I can use my position to lift up others in the small ways that honor you, and to have the strength to turn away from the big things that honor me godlessly.

  • Churchmouse

    Oh to keep the wonder that is Christmas! As we age it is so easy to become cynical and jaded. So grateful for the little one in my life, sweet Julia, who at age 3 sees all of life as a joyful opportunity to discover. She sees the small and wonders gleefully at it all. She makes me bend down and “look, Mimi!” All that is Christmas is brighter and more defined through her eyes. She lays on her tummy and slides closer to the manger beneath our tree. “There He is, Mimi! There’s Jesus! Come here! Bend down and look, Mimi!” And this 63 year old, on my tummy, looks anew and afresh at the Christ Child. Yes, Julia. I want to get that close. Every Christmas. Every day.

  • God is so good and He is so timely. For months now, I have been feeling “not enough”. The thoughts running through my brain have been so negative – too old, not relevant, not useful, not, not, not…but this – “our own smallness points to the greatness of God.” I will be praying the same pray that Elisabeth shared; “that I might see God’s mighty hand in the places of my life that feel small, and that I might see the might of the little places.”
    Papa God, I love you! Thank you for my smallness.
    Be blessed, sisters

    • Cathy

      Thanks for sharing this Kathy. This message also spoke strongly to me this morning. I feel very similarly to what you have expressed here. Thank the Lord that He provides us with glimpses of His perspective to keep us focused. I too will pray along with you and Elisabeth.

    • Susan

      I am in the same place as I have been leading Bible study and feel so inadequate and that so many others would be better, and Why Lord, did you choose me? I needed to hear this message this morning as well! Praying for us all as we let Him lead.

  • This devotion reminded me of a Christmas not so long ago..
    My wonderful younger grandson, then aged 2.5years old, loved work tool, the more dangerous, the better to him. So I thought for Christmas I would buy him a kiddies box of sorts. Found the perfect box, mentioned to his mum, Got one she said. A kid couldn’t have too many tools, so kept looking… Each one I found, it seemed mum had already got it. Each time I heard the ‘I’ve got it’ I sank deeper into despair, until come Christmas eve, I still had nothing for him. Sobbing, I walked aimlessly, thinking I should just get him something.. I got him two long sleeved tee shirts and wrapped them in magnificent paper. Christmas morning I got to the house after church, to find him in an obscene amount of paper and santa sacks of presents everywhere. He jumped up from amongst the paper, delighted to see me. Have you a present for me? He asked. I handed him my meagre offering. He asked what it was.. I told him to open it and see. He threw it to the ground, saying I don’t want it….” I want a box of nannies cookies with cherries on top”!

    All those days of worry and tears and this beautiful child just wanted nannies cookies.
    God being God, I had a box in the car, as I went off to get the box, I heard him say to his daddy, “nannies going to make me some cookies in her car…!
    Two messages there in this story for me, quite rightly, trying to keep up with others and size of present, WILL take from my joy… big time.! In this little boys eyes, his Christmas joy was nannies cookies, he didn’t need anything else!
    Two. My eyes and heart saw the lesson in this whole episode, I was trying to be someone I was not, to impress, to be ‘up there’, but the truth is as Erin so beautifully put it, When we exchange our obsession with making all things bigger and better, we are free to see that the promise delivered to God’s people through Micah is ours to hold on to this Christmas…
    Pure and absolute truth..
    Lord may I always remember that the magnitude of small can be as impact filled as big. That Jesus, the baby in a manager, born to Mary and Joseph was THE GREATEST GIFT EVER GIVEN…
    Amen.
    Happy Friday Sisters..
    Sending BIG LOVE to all.. xx

    • Stacy

      I love this Tina, thank you so much for sharing! My ex and his new wife make quite a bit more money than me – a single mom – and I struggle especially this time of year with feeling like I’m not enough for my 3 year old. Your story has really encouraged me this morning.

      • Emily B.

        My mom was a single mom for eight years and definitely made less money than my dad. I loved spending time with my dad and everything he did for me, but I have more special memories of times with my mom, whether they involved anything fancy or expensive or not. Be encouraged, friend!

    • Annie

      Wow I love that story Tina!! I’m a single mom and feel pressure, especially because my family thinks I make better money than I do working as a nurse, to go all out at Christmas. It’s reassuring to know that the big stuff is not what makes or breaks Christmas for our kids. HE is our peace this season, present in the smallest moments. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Karen

      I love this! Thank you so much for sharing. We are feeling that in our house this year and I’m feeling the mom guilt of not being able to provide a “big” Christmas. But today’s message and your comment have really hit me and encouraged me. I do forget that as much as kids want all the big and awesome toys it’s the small things that put those smiles on their faces. It’s easy to forget what this season is about and I’m excited to celebrate the gift we all have been given in Jesus and be in the moment with my family together.

    • Mae

      Just a big smile here – this touches me deeply

    • Cecilia

      Thanks for sharing this, Tina!

  • So encouraging after feeling a bit down about how small my house is-especially my kitchen! Thank you!

    • April

      Agreed! I struggle with feelings of envy over larger houses when we live in such a tiny house. Escpecially this time of year, when a Christmas tree makes the house oh so pretty but also takes up so much room! Praying for us both Marcia – may we be satisfied with the blessings of safe shelter and honored to be given a small dwelling to inspire others.

    • Ruth Fink

      I can relate!

  • I’m so thankful for today’s reading and devotion. at a time when life feels very tough a few things have happened in the last few days that have filled me with hope. things aren’t better yet but they will be. right now that’s enough. thank you so much shereadstruth

    • Tina

      Sending you, Claire love and hugs wrapped in prayers…xxx

    • Ruth Fink

      May God fill you with hope this time of year. Check out Ellie Holcomb’s song “Hope is Alive”!

  • Elisabeth

    Trading the big for the small…Can I raise my hand on the conviction here? I want to be known, to have my life and story shared and to change many. But maybe it is to be quiet and love and change a few select who would get missed in the many. Please God, may I be glad to not have that glory and to be content with the few. To not look at what others have and are doing in life and ministry.
    May we not look at the comparisons and be grateful to be the little gem of Bethlehem.
    I pray, my fellow sisters, that we see God’s mighty hand in the places in our lives that feel small, and that we see the might of the little places.

    • Tina

      Amen, Elizabeth.
      that we see God’s mighty hand in the places in our lives that feel small, and that we see the might of the little places… Amen..x

    • Faith Cracraft

      Amen!! I’m right here with you. Our life has taken some turns over the past few years where I’m home alone a lot with a little one in bed while my husband words nights. It’s so easy to compare but I have to remember to find the JOMO (joy of missing out) because god has called me to the here and now of simple and small in this season.

    • Annie

      I also have the desire to share my life and story with many, but it is so comforting to know that it’s actually the the stuff the world looks past that God uses. Thank you for sharing and for that beautiful prayer!

    • Anne with an E

      Amen! I too struggle with this, and I need to stop comparing my life to the ideal life that only exists in my head. Praying that he guides us all to appreciate the small.

    • Laryssa

      Thank you for this Elisabeth! I have been struggling with this very thought for some time now. “There must be more. More grandeur, more glory…” but what if there’s not? What if the “more” represents small quite moments? Moments spent in prayer for one in need. Small moments of pointing the way to Jesus with a smile, a kind word, a hug, a verse of encouragement. Moments that ultimately point to the Cross and not to myself. Lord, let me live in the small moments of your extravagant grace so that others see only you.

    • Melissa Stewart

      Thanks for this insight! I pray I see the “might of the little places.”

    • Churchmouse

      Amen

    • Jeanna

      Amen Elisabeth.

    • Libby Kosciuszko

      This had been a struggle in my heart for a long time. Feeling like I matter by doing big things. Leaving my mark on the world and in fine print… for the Lord. I forget Who and What I am supposed to be serving. I’m as equally convicted as all of you woman and I’m so thankful for a place we can share these struggles, know we’re not alone and pray for each other. Lord, remind me to be small so they can see You and not me.

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