Christmas Hope for Rural Ministry

Photo by Sharleine Thorhaug Eger on Facebook

Have you ever given much thought to the song “O Little Town of Bethlehem” or to why God chose Bethlehem as the birthplace of Christ? Currently the population is around 25,000, and it is a tourist attraction. But back then, it was a “little town” located between Jerusalem and Egypt.

I bet when asked where they were from, residents of Bethlehem probably said “Jerusalem”, or “Just outside of Jerusalem”, and even “You’ve probably never heard of it”. Sure, it was King David’s home town, but by that time, unless you were a Jew, you might not know anything about it. I mean if you’re not English, do you know the birth place of any of their former kings? Or as an American, how many birthplaces of presidents, not from your state, can you name?

One of my parishioners posted on Facebook this week that “at the end of 40 days of rain, God put a rainbow in the sky, and at the end of 2020 God sent the Bethlehem star” marking the significance of this event to her, and for many, this week. I too had been praying all last week for clear skies on Monday so we could see it. I didn’t need to see it to believe that God really is with us, but I so deeply wanted to witness that message.

Likewise, the idea that God chose Bethlehem, a little, insignificant town at the time, as the birthplace of Christ, reminds me that God has chosen your rural community too. One other piece of evidence for this is that God has chosen you as His child and messenger and has sent you to these people, in this community. God sees your little rural community and has chosen it to receive His grace!

While so many people in the world have probably never heard of your community, God has! God knows all about it and everyone in it, and more than that, God loves your community and everyone in it! God is in the business of revealing His Light to your little town!

“O little town of ________ (insert your town’s name)
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”

“How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven
No ear may hear His coming
But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive him still
The dear Christ enters in”

Wherever meek souls will receive Him! That means right where you are! Stop saying your town doesn’t have any people; they’ve haven’t all moved away. There are still people in your zip code who need the light of Christ! God sees them, God loves them! Go and do likewise!

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to you and your rural ministry!

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