Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.
In our imagination we see a calm, quiet town outside of Jerusalem on a winter night. But Bethlehem must have been quite busy, for all of King David’s descendants were there at this time. The emperor of Rome declared that all the world should be taxed, and all of David’s lineage were to appear and be accounted for in Bethlehem. Now it was lambing time in Bethlehem so the shepherds were out in the fields round about the town, and it’s a good thing, because if they weren’t out there, there probably wouldn’t even have been room in the stable below the inn where a poor couple who’d come to be taxed from Nazareth had to stay since there was no room upstairs.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (Luke 2:8 )
The flocks of Bethlehem were not just any sheep. The shepherds of Bethlehem were employed especially to supply lambs for the temple sacrifices in Jerusalem. God had taught His people to picture the covering of sin by shedding the blood of a young, innocent lamb and offering it as an atonement for individual sins. And so, the precious, innocent lambs born in Bethlehem would very soon be slaughtered to temporarily appease the wrath of God on a man’s sin.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)
And it wasn’t just any couple that had to stay in the stable. The poor couple was recently married and the woman was expecting her firstborn, but it wasn’t just any child she was expecting. An angel had appeared to her and declared that she would bring forth a Son and call His name Jesus, because He would be a Savior. She would conceive this child without knowing a man; the Holy Ghost would overshadow her and this Son would be called the Son of God.
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)
When this special child was finally introduced to the world, His spokesman did not call Him the Son of God. Rather, he called Him the Lamb of God. This thought reminds us that the precious Babe of Bethlehem, born with the temple lambs, and laid in a manger would also be sacrificed. But since He is the Son of God, His sacrifice would not temporarily, but eternally cover the sins of every man who would place their trust in Him.
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)
…Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)