The first candle of Advent is the Prophet’s candle or the Hope candle and it always focuses our hearts on the hope of the first Advent promised by the prophets. In this post, we have chosen to cover the Bethlehem candle or the Peace candle as the second candle of Advent.
The remaining three candles of Advent may deal with the various parts of the Advent story. They may vary from church to church or even from year to year. The sequence for the remaining three Sundays might Bethlehem, Shepherds, Angels. Or Love, Joy, Peace. No matter what sequence is used, the Scripture reading, prayers, lighting of the candles, the participation of worshipers in the service, all focus on unfolding the story of redemption through God’s grace in the birth of Jesus.
I have chosen to go the route of Bethlehem, Shepherds, and Angels.
The second candle, the Bethlehem candle represents peace. It symbolizes the preparations being made to receive and cradle the Christ child. Bethlehem is a story about a humble couple on an unwanted journey, at an inconvenient time, to visit a tiny insignificant town.
Augustus Caesar was ruling and he called for a census to be taken, but God was in charge, for He used Caesar’s edict to move Mary and Joseph eighty miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem to fulfill His Word. Even though there was no room for Mary and Joseph God had orchestrated these events. Mary and Joseph had to leave Nazareth so that they could register in Bethlehem and the Scriptures (Micah 5:2-5) be fulfilled.
When Mary said “May it be done to me according to Your word.” (Luke 1:38), it meant that from then on, her life would be a part of the fulfillment of divine prophecy. God had promised that the Savior would be a Jew, from the tribe of Judah and the family of David, born of a virgin in Bethlehem, the city of David. All of this occurred just as the Scriptures said, and Caesar unknowingly played an important part.
As we draw nearer to the birth of Jesus, we begin to see just how specific God was about giving His people “directions” to the main event! In Micah 5, we read a prophecy that occurred 735 years before the birth of Christ and yet it’s as specific as if it were spoken right before! When the magi arrive at Herod’s residence, they explain to the king that Jesus is supposed to be born in Bethlehem by quoting these very Scriptures. God did exactly what He said He would do!
Micah tells us several things. He tells us where the Messiah will be born, that He will come from a tribe of Judah, He will rule in Israel, Jesus is eternal and divine but will rule on earth and He will be a shepherd to His people. This One will be our peace.
Bethlehem was the smallest clan of Judah. It is a very insignificant town just outside of Jerusalem. Yet God did not choose Jerusalem for the birthplace of the Messiah. God loved the world so much that He chose, a tiny insignificant town as the location for the birth of the one who literally changed the world. This is the first of many reminders that God loves even the insignificant of the world, and in fact, demonstrates this several times in the weeks to come leading up to the Messiah’s birth.
So my question is this What about you? Don’t you want peace this Christmas? Jesus is our Peace! In the busyness of the season will you make room for Christ, or will you miss it? I can’t help but think of the Inn Keeper, would he have given up his room had he known who needed it?
Read the words to this familiar Christmas hymn.
O Little Town of Bethlehem
O 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.
For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!
How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
Where children pure and happy pray to the blessèd Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.
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;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
If you have not done so already won’t you ask the Christ child to enter in and be born in you today?
If He has already entered in, begin to prepare your hearts to celebrate His birth in the upcoming weeks. You have “the One who is our Peace” dwelling within – May you walk in His Peace this Christmas season.