Episode 156 – Characters of Christmas Pt 1: Town of Bethlehem

Key Passage(s): Luke 2:1-7; Micah 5:2

We’ve all seen the Christmas Pageants where Mary and Joseph show up in Bethlehem within minutes of Mary about to birth. In their moment of greatest need, they’re rejected by family and then by the mean, old innkeeper who informs them “there’s no room in the inn!” Relegated to a stable on the far side of town, and all alone, Mary and Joseph give birth to the savior of the world. Sound familiar? But what if that’s not how it went down at all? What if our understanding of the Christmas story is inaccurate and we need to understand it anew in its original context? That’s precisely what we’re doing with the Christmas story in this new series. We’re beginning with the Bethlehem events recorded in Luke 2. As we’ll see, Bethlehem wasn’t a place of rejection, but of reception for Jesus, and how he was welcomed with wonder! 

Discussion Questions

  • What was your biggest takeaway from the teaching? 
  • How does this episode shift your perspective of the town of Bethlehem? 
  • Mary and Joseph’s family very likely welcomed them regardless of their circumstances. When you consider the people in your life (family, friends, neighbors, strangers, enemies), what might it look like for you to welcome others into your hospitality regardless of circumstances? 
  • As Christmas approaches, how is God filling you with awe and wonder right now? 
  • How will you begin living out the truths of this teaching this week?  

For Further Study

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  1. Jeryl Scott November 1, 2022 at 7:46 am - Reply

    Hi Brad! Love your teachings and looking forward to “The Sacred Thread” series! I have been told that the locals in Bethlehem believe it is most likely Jesus was born at Migdal Eder or the Tower of the Flock. This watchtower from ancient times was used by the shepherds for protection from their enemies and wild beasts who stalked the flocks. It was also where they brought the ewes to deliver their lambs. Unspotted and unblemished lambs were born, swaddled in cloths, and consecrated for sacrifice. Swaddling cloths or bands intended to protect the chosen sacrificial lambs hung on posts and were used on this holy night to cover and warm the baby Jesus. So, it makes sense that Jesus was the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. The Levitical shepherds who watched over the lambs and sheep in the fields and hills near the Tower of Flocks would have been well acquainted with the prophecies concerning the birth of the Messiah and knew exactly where they would find the baby. Micah 4:8 “And thou, O tower of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.” What are your thoughts?

    • Brad Gray November 1, 2022 at 10:06 am - Reply

      You’re already ahead of us, Jeryl 🙂 Well done and great question! I’ll be tackling all of this in Part 3 of this series called “Lowly Shepherds.” Stay tuned.

  2. Jeannie November 1, 2022 at 8:21 am - Reply

    Beautiful….simply beautiful. 😔

    • Brad Gray November 1, 2022 at 10:06 am - Reply

      Appreciate you sharing that, Jeannie.

  3. David November 2, 2022 at 4:05 am - Reply

    Interesting podcast, Brad. How about Justin’s record (~150 AD) that “since Joseph could not find a lodging in that village, he took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village”? Also, I appreciate your statement on the importance of hospitality in the culture, but there are many instances in the gospels of refused hospitality. Is it that unreasonable to think that Joseph and Mary were refused room in the kataluma because of their perceived sinful behavior? Thanks for doing this series!

  4. Sherry Shoemaker December 23, 2022 at 7:02 am - Reply

    Brad, I love The Teaching Series! I have so many favorites (Genealogy Christmas, Rabbis & Disciples) and now this one. So well done! So much information packed in a short time frame. Super excited about Brad Nelson joining you, too! Thank you for all that you do to help us walk out the text well in our lives!

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