That question comes from a song I wrote last year with my good friend, Jason Hansen, called “Who Would Have Dreamed?” for our album Prepare Him Room. We were trying to express the amazing miracle of the Incarnation.
Theologian J.I. Packer says the Christmas event of Christ’s birth is where the “profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. . . . Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation.”
Nothing in fiction is so fantastic. That means stories of Santa Claus, elves, Grinches, sugar plum fairies, and ghosts of Christmas, while entertaining and enjoyable, will never satisfy our thirst for awe and wonder like the miracle of God taking on an infant’s flesh.
And it is the most fantastic of stories. A key part of that story is tucked away in Micah 5:1-2, the passage we used as the basis for “Who Would Have Dreamed.” In the 8th century B.C., Micah prophesied that both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel would fall to foreign armies. And yet Micah spoke of hope as well as judgment. The first two verses of chapter 5 capture both:
“Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek. 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 in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”
In verse 1 Micah warns that the judge of Israel would be struck down. Israel’s defenses would be useless. But in verse 2, God promises to send a ruler whose origins were from of old. All the ancient Jewish interpreters anticipated this ruler would be God’s Messiah. And he would be born in the town of Bethlehem, a town “too little to be among the clans of Judah.” As I’ve thought about this passage, three things have stood out.
God wants the Savior to be known.
The Messiah could have shown up anywhere in the world. God could have left it up to us to our best speculations to determine how and where he might appear. But our God is full of mercy. Seven hundred years before Jesus came, he told us a Savior would come as a baby and pinpointed the city of his birth. That’s like someone predicting in the 1300s what town a baby would be born in today. We don’t have to wonder whether or not Jesus is the Word of God come in the flesh. God gave us more than enough information to recognize him when he came. And still, most people missed him then and continue to miss him today.
God’s glory shines in our weakness.
We would expect the Messiah to be born in a significant city. Somewhere impressive, important, and impacting. Perhaps Jerusalem, God’s holy city. Or if you wanted to make a splash politically, Rome. But God’s ways aren’t our ways. He uses the weak to overcome the strong, the foolish to confound the wise, and in the matter of Jesus’s birth, he picked an obscure city as the birthplace for the King of kings. As one man said, “The hinge of history is on the door of a Bethlehem stable.” That tells us that the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plans doesn’t depend on our skills, our intelligence, our strategizing, or our wisdom. His eye is on the one who trusts in him. “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love” (Ps. 33:18). He fulfills his purposes through jars of clay and cities of no renown.
God keeps his promises.
For the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem, as was promised in Micah 5:2, God had to orchestrate the Roman emperor calling for a worldwide census. No problem. Because God keeps his promises.
God promised in Gen. 3:15 that the head of the serpent would be crushed by the future offspring of Eve. And he kept his promise.
God promised Abraham in Gen. 12:3 that all the families of the earth would be blessed through him. And he kept his promise.
God promised David in 2 Sam. 7:16 that he would establish the throne of his kingdom forever. And he kept his promise.
God promised in Isaiah 53:5 that His suffering servant would be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. And he kept his promise.
And God will keep his promises to us. He will save anyone who calls on the name of Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:13).
He will complete the work he began in us (Phil. 1:6).
He will make sure that eventually we will look exactly like his Son (Rom. 8:29; 1 Jn. 3:2).
He will cause all things in our lives to work together for good (Rom. 8:28).
He will keep our going out and our coming in from this time forth and forevermore (Ps. 121:8).
He will crush Satan under our feet. (Rom. 16:20) He will unite all things in heaven and earth in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:10).
And one day he will wipe away every tear from our eyes, death will be no more, and we will see his face (Rev. 21:4; 22:4).
Those and an infinite number of other promises have all come true, or will certainly come true, because the Savior was born one night in the tiny town of Bethlehem – just as God promised.
And it’s in that tiny baby, cradled in Mary’s arms, that all the promises of God would find their Yes (2 Cor. 1:20).
Who would have dreamed?
(Image courtesy of shutterstock.com)