Posts Tagged ‘Luke 2:1’

In Bethlehem of Judea

December 20, 2017

Luke 2--1

In the Verse of the Day for December 20, 2017 we find another reference to the birth of Jesus Christ mentioning the location where the Savior would be born:

Luke 2:1, 4-5

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

Bethlehem is a location of longstanding importance in the Land of Israel. We recognize that the prophet Micah made this prophetic declaration regarding place where the Messiah would be born:

Micah 5:2–5 (AMP):


“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah;
From you One shall come forth for Me [who is] to be Ruler in Israel,
His goings forth (appearances) are from long ago,
From ancient days.”


Therefore, He will give them up until the time
When she who is in labor has given birth to a child.
Then what is left of His kinsmen
Shall return to the children of Israel.


And He shall stand and shepherd and guide His flock
In the strength of the Lord,
In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God;
And they shall dwell [secure in undisturbed peace],
Because at that time He shall be great [extending His authority]
[Even] to the ends of the earth.


This One [the Messiah] shall be our peace.

When the Assyrian invades our land
And tramples on our citadels and in our palaces,
Then shall we raise against him
Seven shepherds and eight princes [an overpowering force] among men.

Located about six miles southwest of Jerusalem, Bethlehem is not only the birthplace of Jesus Christ, but the city has a rich heritage as a place of importance in God’s plan for humanity. Genesis 35:19 (NLT) records the first mention of the town:

So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)

In Hebrew the name means “house of bread.” Recall that the account of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz from the book of Ruth takes place in Bethlehem, where Naomi returns with Ruth after the famine in Moab. David, the King, the great-grandson of Ruth and Boaz was born and grew up in Bethlehem. Eventually the Judean town became known as the City of David, for it was there the prophet Samuel anointed him to be king over Israel (1 Samuel 16:1-13).

The account of the birth of Jesus Christ provides a confluence of circumstances that merge in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph found themselves at that particular location when Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken. Every person in the entire Roman world had to go to his own town to register. Joseph, being a descendent of David, was required to go to Bethlehem to register with Mary, his wife who was pregnant at the time. Because of the overcrowded conditions due to the census, the inn where they sought refuge was full, and Mary gave birth to Savior of the World in the primitive conditions of a stable where the child was laid in a manger.

During this time of the year we listen to a number Christmas songs focusing on Bethlehem, the place of the Savior’s birth; the Black spiritual “Children, Go Where I Send” along with  “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Away in a Manger.” Last year I discovered another related song, Betelehemu, a Nigerian carol sung in the Yoruba dialect. Here is background information posted a year ago:

According to Godsongs.net, the Christmas song was originally composed for the Morehouse College Glee Club by the choir director for the college, Dr. Wendell P. Whalum, who received the song from Michael Babtunde Olantunji, a Rotary scholarship student who attended Morehouse in the 1950s. After graduation, he went to become known as Olantunji, an accomplished percussionist and recording artist in his own right, working with such artists as Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Bob Dylan, and other noted jazz artists before his death in the US in 2003.

Here are lyrics with translation:

Betelehemu, Betelehemu, Betelehemu, Betelehemu.

Bethlehem, Bethlehem, Bethlehem. . .

We are glad that we have a Father to trust.
We are glad to have a Father to rely upon.

Where was Jesus born?
Where was he born?

Bethlehem the city of wonder.
That is where the Father was born for sure.

Praise, Praise, Praise be to Him
We thank Thee, We thank Thee for this day,

Gracious Father.
Praise be to Thee, Merciful Father.

This amazing Christmas song has been sung by various soloists and ensembles, including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Listen to this Christmas lagniappe or special treat recorded by the Morehouse Men’s Choir: “Betelehemu”

What’s going on: More signs of the times

September 9, 2017

Matthew 24--3

Late Thursday, September 7, 2017, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake, the most powerful earthquake to hit Mexico in a century, struck off the southern coast. US Geological Survey (USGS) predicts “High casualties and extensive damage are probable, and the disaster is likely widespread, requiring a national or international response.”

This recent quake occurred while the US was still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, followed closely by the threatening dangers of Hurricane Irma.  This horrifying sequence of events continues to rivet the attention of the world, as many echo the sentiments of Marvin Gaye, asking, “What’s going on?” Others observe the news and comment, “These are just signs of the times,” recalling the remarks made by Jesus Christ when asked about the days before His return to Earth.

In Matthew 24, known as the Mount Olive Discourse, and in Luke 2, we find a list of signs said to occur before Christ returns. Indeed, one of the last signs involve “the sea and waves roaring”: [there will be] distress and anguish among nations, in perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea and the waves.  The recent spate of hurricanes would certainly qualify as one of the signs.

Other “signs of the time” include the following:

Earthquakes in various places

In an article “Are earthquakes signs of the end times?” Steven A. Austin and Mark L. Strauss discuss the controversy generated by such Christian writers and Bible teachers who maintain that Jesus predicted that an increase in frequency and intensity of earthquakes would occur prior to his return. In actuality, Jesus Christ indicated that earthquakes would occur in various places, nothing more.

“Wars and rumors of wars”

Jesus spoke of increasing conflict when he said, “Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” At the heart of the phrase “nation against nation” is the Greek word ethnos, from which the English word “ethnic” is derived.  With increased globalization, come increased ethnic conflicts which now ravage the world.

Never has there been a more revealing picture of kingdoms in conflict than with the recent focus on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its threat to the Middle East and beyond. The Islamist militant group that is determined to establish a Caliphate that will dominate the world with its ideology is a demonstration of “Kingdom against kingdom.” Caliphate is another name for “kingdom.”

Famine.

According to the Food Aid Foundation, about 795 million people in the world are suffering from chronic undernourishment. Almost all the hungry people live in developing countries, representing 13.5 percent, or one in eight, of the population of developing counties. Estimates indicate that one in every eight people on Earth goes to bed hungry each night.

Pestilences

The global health crises such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the threat of the Zika virus have captured the attention of world. Other infectious diseases, such MRSA, (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus infection) and other drug-resistant infections, along with flesh-eating diseases and sexually transmitted diseases fall into the category of “pestilences.” Previous epidemics of contagious diseases have included Hepatitis C, HIV, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), Mumps, and Measles. Some would say that such outbreaks might refer to the “pestilences” that Jesus Christ spoke about.

Cosmic phenomena: “signs in the heavens above”

On August 21, 2017, the nation watched with wonder the solar eclipse of the sun, described as “the sight of a lifetime.”  Many observers also recognized this astronomical occurrence as prelude to another intersection of stars and planets that will be seen as ‘The Great Sign” spoken of in Revelation 12:1-2.  Projected to occur 33 days after the total eclipse on September 23, 2017, this rare cosmic conjunction is also are designed to display Jesus Christ and the glory of his second coming.

With the increasing frequency of these recent events, many recognize them as so-called “signs and wonders” spoken of in Luke 21:25-28. In addition, the hearts of people will fail because of fear, for “the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”

As the nightly news reports earthly and heavenly phenomena amidst escalating conflict among nations, along with increasing earthquakes and other natural disasters. In addition, famine continues to be a global issue of great concern, not to mention deadly diseases that threaten civilization. To many observers, the culmination of these “signs of the times” appear to indicate the return of Christ draws closer and closer day by day.

Luke 21:27-28

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws near.”

The lyrics of “Redemption Draweth Nigh” reinforce this message”:

 

Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem

December 20, 2016

 

luke-2-1-7

In keeping with the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Verse of the Day for December 20, 2016 comes from Luke 2:1, 4-5 as recorded in the Amplified Bible:

[Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem] Now in those days a decree went out from [the emperor] Caesar Augustus, that all the inhabited world (the Roman Empire) should be registered [in a census]. So Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register with Mary, who was betrothed to him, and was with child.

One of the blessings of Christmas is the wonderful music associated with this festive holiday season. While the carols and songs from the past as well as contemporary songs of celebration are enjoyable, some of the spirituals associated with Christmas are especially appreciated. As a form of African American folk music born out of the soul of slavery, the spiritual has become what Lovell described as “the foundation stone of black song and black poetry.” Today the spiritual is widely recognized and appreciated all over the world.

Earlier this month, a blog entry also focused on the place where the Savior was born, as we note in “Bethlehem: More than the place of the Savior’s birth.” In addition, in the past I have posted a list of the Top 10 Christmas Spirituals with a discussion of their origin along with a musical sampling of some of my favorites. Today’s Verse of the Day has served as the inspiration for a number of songs of the season, including “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.” Here is a rendering of this Christmas classic by the Sojourners

Another popular song mentioning the birthplace of the Lord is “O, Little Town of Bethlehem.” The popular Christmas carol is said to have been written by Phillips Brooks, young Episcopalian minister who had made the treacherous journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, where he assisted with the midnight service in the Church of the Nativity in 1865. Three years later Rev. Brooks composed a song for his Sunday School with lyrics inspired by his previous journey. His organist, Lewis Redner, provided the music to what has become one of the all-time favorite Christmas carols: “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,” offered as a medley with “Away in a Manger” by Kari Jobe.

Wrapped in swaddling clothes

December 20, 2015

Luke 2--1

As we continue in the season celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior, we note the Verse of the Day for December 20, 2015 found in Luke 2:1, 4-5. A more complete unfolding of the narrative is found in Luke 2:1-8 in the Amplified Bible:

[Jesus’ Birth in Bethlehem] Now in those days a decree went out from [the emperor] Caesar Augustus, that all the inhabited world (the Roman Empire) should be registered [in a census]. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone went to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 So Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register with Mary, who was betrothed to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there [in Bethlehem], the time came for her to give birth, 7 and she gave birth to her Son, her firstborn; and she wrapped Him in [swaddling] cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no [private] room for them in the inn.

The passage concludes with a reference to an ancient custom associated with birth, that is, Mary wrapped the child in “swaddling cloths” or as the King James Version renders “swaddling clothes” or “swaddling strips” in the New Living Translation. The practice was for a child, particularly a child of royal lineage, to be salted and swaddled. Shortly after birth, the child would be washed with water into which a pinch of salt had been added, symbolizing a covenant of salt, whereby the words spoken by the child would be words of truth, always seasoned with salt. The child would then be wrapped in swaddling bands or swaddling clothes, strips of fine linen to represent that the child would grow up to walk straight and tall.

Bishop KC Pillai, a converted Hindu who embraced Christianity, wrote extensively on Eastern customs and manners, known as Orientalisms, as revealed in the Bible. He point outs some of the distinctive features of the custom of swaddling and notes that when Israel strayed from the precepts of God and walked in idolatry, their abominable practices were described in this way in Ezekiel 16:1-4, indicating how far they had strayed from the precepts of Jehovah:

Ezekiel 16:1-4 (KJV):

Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2 Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,
3 And say, thus saith the Lord GOD unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite.
4 And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.

Swaddling continued to be practiced beyond Biblical times, as a recent blog entry from needleprint.blogspot.com, commented on the elaborately embroidered bands made for young prince Federigo, Duke of Urbino, pictured here:

swaddling clothesIn addition, when the angels announced to the shepherds that the Savior had been born, they were given a sign that established the truth of their words:

And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find a Baby wrapped in [swaddling] cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12).

The timing of the arrival of the shepherds had to be precise since the swaddling clothes were left on the child for only a few minutes. The shepherds could not arrive on the scene before the swaddling had begun, nor could they arrive after the custom had been completed. They had to be in the right place at the right time. As we so clearly see, the account of the birth of Jesus Christ abounds with signs, wonders, and miracles, one of which involves his being “wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.”

“He’s Here” by Eddie James offers a powerful, musical rendering of the account of the Savior who was “born of a virgin, wrapped in swaddling clothes. . .”