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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Why was Jesus born in Bethlehem?

December 25th, The Solemnity of the Nativity of our Savior

And thou Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda: out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel: and his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity. (Micah 5:1)

Men are not able to chose the time and place of their birth, just as no man may choose his mother or father. However, the case of the Christ Child is diverse – for he did indeed choose his holy Mother, having consecrated her from the first moment of her conception; and he chose St. Joseph as his guardian.

In his divinity, through his all-encompassing providence, Jesus willed not only to be born of Mary and to be under the protection of Joseph, but he further willed to be born in the city of David called Bethlehem.

Our Savior was born in Bethlehem because St. Joseph had taken his wife the Blessed Mary to the city of David to be enrolled for the census. However, this was no mere coincidence or accident, rather the Son of God had willed and provided for this circumstance to accompany his holy birth.

The Lord could have chosen any city: Nazareth, Jerusalem, Rome, or any other. But, passing by all these, he willed to come forth from the virginal and fruitful womb of Mary into the world in the city of Bethlehem. What merited the choice of this small town over any of the great cities?

Our Savior chose the place, time and circumstances of his birth

When expounding upon the fact that Christ was born at a fitting time, in a fitting place, and in fitting circumstances, the Angelic Thomas states:
“There is this difference between Christ and other men, that, wheras they are born subject to the restrictions of time, Christ, as Lord and Maker of all time, chose a time in which to be born, just as he chose a mother and a birthplace. And since ‘what is of God is well ordered’ and becomingly arranged, it follows that Christ was born at a most fitting time.” (ST III, q.35, a.8)

Surely, our Savior did not choose the circumstances of his birth by virtue of his human nature – no, in this respect he is like other men. However, he did choose, will, and order all these circumstance in his divinity before the time of his incarnation. And, since there is only one Son, one Christ, one Jesus, that is, one Person, we must necessarily maintain that the Divine Infant had indeed chosen the time and place and other circumstances of his sacred Nativity.

As God, the Christ Child had arranged for the particulars of Christmas from the beginning of time. It was no accident that Jesus was born in Bethlehem – What then was he teaching us?

Bethlehem: City of David

Bethlehem is called the “City of David”, being the place in which David the King had been born. Now, Christ was of the seed and line of David, according to the flesh – not only by the inheritance rights which he attained through his adoption by St. Joseph, but even by blood descent through our Lady.

That the prophecy might be fulfilled concerning the son of David who should reign forever and ever, and in order to manifest his true and lasting kingship, Jesus willed to be born in Bethlehem as the City of David, the City where the great King should be born.

Bethlehem: House of Bread

Further, we must point out that the name Bethlehem is, of course, Hebrew in origin. There is a great and hidden significance to this name. Bethlehem comes from two Hebrew words: Beth and lehem.

Beth means “house”, while lehem means “bread”. Thus, Bethlehem is interpreted, “The house of bread.”

On this point, St. Gregory the Great tells us:

“Bethlehem is interpreted ‘the house of bread.’ It is Christ himself who said, I am the living Bread which came down from heaven.” (Hom. Viii in Evang.)

He who willed to give us his own flesh as true food under the outward appearance of bread, began to instruct us in the mystery of the Holy Eucharist from the moment of his birth. For he willed to be born in no other place than the House of Bread. (...)

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