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Bethlehem, The House of Bread

I couldn’t help but rejoice this morning as I read Luke’s story surrounding the birth of Jesus.

In his letter to Theophilus, Luke’s Advent narrative introduces an aged and barren couple named Zacharias and Elisabeth.  Elisabeth was for all practical purposes a pastor’s wife, and her husband’s job was simply to burn incense before the Lord.  Their lot was not “mega church” by any standard, but apparently they were faithful to the call.

This stately old man was somewhat taken aback when an angel shows up on the “right side of the altar of incense,” perhaps even more concerned, when told of the impending birth of a child!   I can imagine the “conversation” when he returns to the parsonage still in unbelief, note pad in hand (see Luke 1:22), to share with Elizabeth; much less, how she felt when things begin to get tight around her waist!  As the story goes, she stayed inside for five months.

God, now trumps himself (political humor), for in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel (these awesome beings have names) shows up in the home of Elisabeth’s young and single Cousin Mary.  Mary, espoused to an apprentice carpenter, receives news of a soon to be born son named Jesus.  He would be called the Son of the Highest, the kind of title reserved only for the politically elite.

I am sure by now this virgin girl was wondering how she might be awakened from this dream, while Gabriel continues to describe these new and powerful things!  “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the highest shall overshadow thee.”  “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”

Still yet, this is making little sense to her, so the angel unpacks the story a bit further, informing her that Cousin Elisabeth, though quite her senior, is now six months pregnant!  God always knows how to set you up for the impossible! Mary “went into the hill country with haste” in search of her cousin and as she enters the parsonage, the baby leaps in Elisabeth’s womb.  This may have been the first Pentecostal cottage prayer meeting, for these two girls are about to burst with excitement!

Given the sudden movement in her belly, Elisabeth begins to bless Mary, prophesying of more things to come.  Then Mary gets on her praise, blown out of the water by what is happening!   Justice has come, the proud of hearts will be scattered, the mighty brought down, and the lowly exalted!  The day spoken of by the prophets; she just never dreamed that the Lion would come from her loins!

These two spend the next three months together; poor Zacharias can hardly get a word in edgewise.  For real, he had been mute since the time the angel spoke to him.  Apparently the pastor had difficulty believing the story, though he did deliver on the mission!

So, as the story moves forward, an arrogant Caesar Augustus requires that “all the world should be taxed!”  Why?  God’s marvelous story needed Joseph in a town called Bethlehem, “The House of Bread.”

“As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, remember me.” – Jesus

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