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A note from Pastor Unke
Ordinary Village--God's Great Plan!

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.   
(from the Christmas hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem”)
Winterset, Iowa claims John Wayne. 
Hodgenville, Kentucky claims Abraham Lincoln.
Eisleben, Germany claims Martin Luther.
Tupelo, Mississippi claims Elvis.

But only Bethlehem can claim the two Greatest Kings in all history!

Tiny little burgs are found all around the world and most are known only to the locals.  [Howards Grove isn’t exactly The Great White Way!]  But in this chosen little village called Bethlehem incredible things happened. 

Bethlehem’s story is the “tale of two kings.”  That tiny little shepherd’s community produced its first great king 3000 years ago.  As a boy, he spent countless hours working in the hills that surrounded his hometown, talking to sheep and, most often, smelling like one.  He was Jesse’s little boy—nothing special.  But then God’s finger pointed down at him as his chosen one—and he grew to be the great King David! 

Ordinary village—ordinary kid—God’s great plan!

Bethlehem is actually better known for a greater King.  His name is known to all He arrived in town late on an ordinary winter night.  His parents had traveled days to get there and the trip was more than the very pregnant Mary could handle—the baby would come now...here.  By the light of an oil lamp, the young couple from faraway Nazareth welcomed their newborn into the world and into the tiny village that would become known to people of all generations.  That night, as the silent stars went by, almost no one noticed.  But from that point on, Bethlehem would never be the same—in fact, this world would never be the same!
I’ve had the privilege of walking the streets of Bethlehem…but so much has changed in 2000 years.  A high wall topped with razor wire surrounds the town.  Most of the citizens of Bethlehem today worship an imaginary god that a sham prophet concocted hundreds of years after the birth of Jesus.  A few ancient buildings show evidence of hundreds of years of warfare and hatred between enemies.  Mary and Joseph would not recognize the place… neither would David.
But the hostile history of a sin-infected world has not erased the majesty of that place on that night nor the glory of the plan that made it happen.  History’s hopes and fears were met there that night through the perfect plan of God—the arrival of his Son: Immanuel.

Ordinary village—ordinary birth—God’s plan of Grace!

There was something very special shining in those dark streets of Bethlehem that evening—the Light of the World.  Though Bethlehem was small among the clans of Judah, yet born in it was a King with a name that is above all names—a name that, in the end, will cause every knee to bow to him.  The baby-king’s name is JESUS.

For you and me, our knees already bend to worship him.  THAT may be the most amazing thing about Christmas.  God’s plan of Grace, which included Bethlehem;  David;  shepherds;  the virgin Mary;  Magi from the east;  etc, also includes us.  He came to Bethlehem—to his own people—but they didn’t recognize him.  But by the Holy Spirit’s work, he gave us the right to become children of God!  While the world goes through the superficial motions of Christmas again this year, we see Jesus—God With Us—God For Us! 

Don’t let mere appearance fool you.  Bethlehem may seem like a meaningless little village, small among the clans of Judah.  But from that little town—on that Holy Night—came the One on whom we build our hope of heaven. 

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in;  be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great, glad tidings tell;
Oh, come to us,  Abide with us,  Our Lord Immanuel!
Merry Christmas in Jesus!            Pastor Unke


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