Merry Christmas

Now the birth of Christ is as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, n angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “”Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save the people from their sins.”

Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, 

“BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”

And Joseph arose from his sleep, and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took her as his wife, and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

~Matthew 1:18-25

 

And 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, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. And it came about that while they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her first-born son; and she wrapped him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of God shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

Glory to God in the highest

“And on earth peace among men with

   “whom He is pleased.”

 

And it came about when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”

 

And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

 

~Luke 2:4-20

 

Merry Christmas, everyone. Let’s not forget the real reason we celebrate this day. Give Glory to God, thank Him for His Grace and Mercy, and enjoy this day of celebration.

Bethlehem

Bethlehem as it appeared in 1882

Bethlehem as it appeared in 1882

Bethlehem of Judah (to be distinguished from Bethlehem of Galilee) is located approximately 6 miles southwest of Jerusalem, in the southern portion of the Judean Mountains. The name, “Bethlehem,” or in Hebrew, “Bet Lehem,” translates literally to mean, “House of Bread.” It is situated at approximately 2,543 feet above mean sea level.

The climate of Bethlehem is typically Mediterranean, with dry summers with temperatures into the low- to mid-eighties, and cold damp winters, with temperatures getting as low as the mid-thirties. Average annual rainfall is 28 inches.

In 338 C.E., Helena (mother of the Emperor Constantine) had a church built over the grotto that is traditionally held to be the birthplace of Jesus. Christian tradition affirming the site to be the birthplace of Christ goes back to at least the Second Century, when Justin Martyr identified “a cave outside of the town” as the birthplace of Jesus; in the Third Century, Origen of Alexandria claimed that the townspeople had pointed out the specific location of the Nativity.

TSbtfran

Modern view of the grotto traditionally held to be the site of Christ's birth

Modern view of the grotto traditionally held to be the site of Christ’s birth

View of the traditional site within the grotto, where Jesus was born

View of the traditional site within the grotto, where Jesus was born

The town itself was bitterly contested during the period of the Crusades, from its initial capture by Crusaders in 1100, until the final defeat of the Crusaders and their expulsion from Palestine in 1291.

And Rachel died, and was buried in Eph’rath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel’s grave unto this day.

Genesis 35:19, 20

As the traditional place of Rachel’s burial (in addition to being the birthplace of Jesus), Bethlehem is also sacred to Jews and Moslems, who make regular pilgrimages to the site of Rachel’s tomb.

In modern times, the traditional claims for Bethlehem of Judah being the place of Christ’s birth has become the subject of scholarly dispute, with some scholars claiming that there is no historical or archaeological case to support the claims. These scholars claim that Scripture is not to be taken literally, but rather that the use of Bethlehem of Judah was used as a sort of literary device in the narrative of Christ’s birth. Others make the claim that the Gospel writers used the location in order to bolster claims of fulfilled prophecy, and yet another school of reasoning holds that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem at all, but rather in Nazareth.

However, most of these scholars disavow any scriptural references that contain supernatural implications, such as fulfilled prophecy; it is also worth noting that other claims made by certain groups of historians could not hold up unless the traditional location of Jesus’s birth is disqualified. For instance, there are claims by many of the biographers of Herod, who state that the “Slaughter of the Innocents”—the massacre of all infant males in Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth—never actually happened, which would validate the claim that the Gospel authors resorted to some creative license in their record of the Nativity. Given the insignificance of the town in Herod’s day, the fact that there was no method for news to travel quickly, and the general ruthlessness that characterized the reign of Herod (who murdered three of his own sons in a bid to retain power), these claims are at best speculative, and at worst specious.

The Pool of Gibeon

Now Abner the son of Ner, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon with the servants of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul. And Joab the son of Zeruiah and the servants of David went out and met them by the pool of Gibeon; and they sat down, one on the one side of the pool and the other on the other side of the pool.    

Then Abner said to Joab, “Now let the young men arise and hold a contest before us.” And Joab said, “Let them arise.”

So they arose and went over by count, twelve for Benjamin and the servants of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David. And each one of them seized his opponent by the head, and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side; so they fell down together. Therefore that place is called Helkath-hazzurim, which is in Gibeon.

And that day the battle was very severe, and Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David.

2 Samuel 2:12-17

Now, this is pretty cool. In 1956, archaeologists discovered the Pool of Gibeon, a pool of water—eighty-two feet below ground.

82 feet, ladies and gentlemen.

In order to get to the pool, the Israelites dug a pit 37 feet across, and then carved a semi-circular staircase out of the limestone until they reached the water table. This required the removal of 3000 tons of limestone.

Village women would descend into the well carrying large earthenware jars, fill them up with water (that must have been some good water), and then climbed the seventy-nine steps back to the surface.

And y’all think that Zumba is good for the butt and thighs. Pfft.

According to archaeologists, the pool fell out of use around 600 B.C. My guess is that the village men were “persuaded” to find a reliable source of water closer to ground level.

Just sayin’.

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Source: “Great People of the Bible and How They Lived,” 1974 Reader’s Digest Association