I love the Christmas story. Every year I appreciate it more and more. Every year I grasp something fresh that I’ve not fully considered and last year I saw something very simple that somehow I had missed – involving a name.
Jesus, God’s Son, born at Christmas, is given a number of names in the bible. One of them is ‘the bread of life’. So we read in John 6:35 that Jesus says, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.’ I hope you’ve found that to be true – that all your hungers and longings are satisfied in Jesus Christ. That he is the one who feeds you, and nourishes you, and satisfies your need for meaning, purpose, experience, and for a cause to follow. Jesus is the bread of life. For you and for me.
That is true, not just for you – but for all people. For your next door neighbour. For the man in front of you on the bus. For the woman sitting next to you at the cinema. For your relative. Work colleague. And friend.
When God got things ready for Jesus to be born, he looked after every detail. In fact he did the detail really well. And he left many signposts along the way, to help point people to his Son. And one of them is to do with the name of the place where Jesus was born. So, where was Jesus born? What was the name of the town? The answer of course is ‘Bethlehem’.
In Hebrew, beth means ‘house’. So in Genesis 28 when Jacob has a dream of a ladder joining heaven and earth with angels ascending and descending, he realises he’s in a meeting place between heaven and earth. As a result he names the place Beth-el, meaning ‘house of God’, with beth meaning ‘house’, or household, or place, and el meaning God. What about lehem? Lehem in Hebrew means ‘bread’. So when in Exodus 16 God promises to feed the Israelites with ‘bread’ in the desert, the word used is lehem. Some years later Jesus is born in Beth-lehem; a place which means ‘the house of bread’.
At Christmas we remember God sending the bread of life into the world. Where does he send him to? To the house (or place) of bread. To ‘the bakery’. So Jesus was born in a place known as ‘the bakery’ or the place of bread. Where better to send ‘the bread of life’?
What does this mean for us? Well it means that in the midst of all the busyness of the season; in the midst of the cards and the presents – we can come to Jesus Christ and be satisfied deep within. This Christmas, make sure you come again to the beth-lehem – to the House of Bread and taste and see that the Lord is good. ‘For whoever comes to me’ says Jesus ‘will never go hungry’.
God sent Jesus to satisfy our deepest hunger.