“‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clansof Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.’” (Micah 5:2). 

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Bethlehem was a sleepy, little town nestled among the rocky hills 6 miles south of Jerusalem.

Shepherds grazed their flocks outside the city, and local farmers grew figs, olives, grapes and wheat. Located along a Roman highway that went south to Hebron and Egypt, Bethlehem had an estimated population of 10,000. Its name means “house of bread.”

Bethlehem was kind of like Hodgenville, Kentucky—a rural town whose claim to fame was being the birthplace of a great leader. Abraham Lincoln is Hodgenville’s famous son. King David was born in Bethlehem, but after David’s reign, the town sank into obscurity, though it kept the moniker “city of David.”

All that changed on Christmas night.

Angels lit up the night sky and scared a bunch of shepherds grazing their flocks. They shared wonderful news: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Jesus Christ was born in a stable in Bethlehem. It was an unlikely place for the King of Kings to be born. A palace in Jerusalem might have been more fitting, but God often uses unlikely places and characters to fulfill His plan.

And it wasn’t the first time in Bethlehem’s history God used unlikely characters.

King David was a shepherd boy, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, when God had Samuel anoint him to be king of Israel.

David’s great-grandmother Ruth was from the pagan Moabite tribe, yet she faithfully served her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi and moved to Bethlehem with her after both of their husbands died.

The Bible is filled with similar stories.

Are you an unlikely character?  Do you think you have things in your past that might disqualify you from being used by God?

Guess what? We all do.

But if we are willing, God will use us despite our weaknesses, failings and flaws.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

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>What are some ways you can try to make Christ the center of this Christmas season?

>Who are some other unlikely characters in the Bible? What can you learn from them?

>Do you feel like God has called you do something you’ve avoided doing?