Michael Youssef - Let's Go to Bethlehem
Blessed and joyous Christmas to you, and to your family, and to your loved ones. I know it has been a challenging year, but the joy of the Lord of knowing that he came from heaven to redeem us and to take us to heaven with him, and even those who have gone ahead of us, they are already in his presence celebrating. And I want to show you today in today's message what Christmas really means, the fact that Christ gives us the potential, providence, and privilege. His life in us present those three things: potential, providence, and privilege. I hope you stay tuned. Call somebody and say, "Tune in". This great message is going to bless you.
Let's go to Bethlehem. Can we say that together? Let's... Down the hill, few hundred yards from Bethlehem, a group of common shepherd were terrified at the sight of the angels because it's not a common sight. They had not seen it before, had not heard an angel talk before. They were absolutely terrified when they were told that the very one for whom all of Israel has waited for thousands of years has arrived. The first thing they said to one another, "Let us go to Bethlehem". Say it again with me. "And see what the angels told us, see what all this is about". Verse 15 of Luke chapter 2. "Let's go". And there they go and they found the baby there. And so they return back to their little hill where they were grazing the sheep, praising God for what they just saw with their own eyes. Seven miles away from Bethlehem, there is a big city, Jerusalem. Big in comparison to Bethlehem. It's not a big city as you can imagine a big city. Jerusalem.
Bethlehem in comparison is not even a hamlet. In comparison it's a tiny little village, and yet Bethlehem long remembered in history. The first time in the Bible you hear about Bethlehem, the very first time, is in the book of Genesis where, you remember the old story from Sunday school where Jacob's beloved, dear wife that he had to work for her for 14 years dies? And you hear about this in Genesis. Brokenhearted Jacob buries Rachel there in Bethlehem. That's the first time you hear about it in the Bible. But then also in Bethlehem you find Ruth the Moabite falls in love with Boaz as the lord of the harvest. It was in that little town of Bethlehem where King David before he was king, as a teenage boy he was shepherding the sheep of his dad.
It was in that little town of Bethlehem, it's a nondescript little village in all of Israel, that the prophet Micah hundreds of years before Christ was born in chapter 5, verse 2, the prophet Micah said, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah". Because there was another Bethlehem. He wanted to make sure that we know exactly which is the right one. "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will rule over Israel, whose origins from old, from ancient times". In other words, he co-existed with the Father before all world was created. He's going to show up and be born of a virgin. But there's something else about this village of Bethlehem I don't want you to miss.
This little village was a troubled village. It was a troubled village back then. It is a troubled village now to this day, which really makes it extremely difficult for Christians. But hear me right, please. Your life may be troubled like Bethlehem. You might be facing challenges that insurmountable and you don't know how to deal with it. You may be seeing problems in your life that doesn't look, that doesn't appear to be a solution for them. There may be, you feel in yourself as inadequate of coping with the challenges of life or what's going on in life. Maybe you're like Bethlehem. I have good news for you today. Christ can be born in you today. Christ can come into your life and whatever troubled situation you're in he can be glorified in you, but only when you, like the shepherds, say, "Let's go to Bethlehem".
Now, I want to tell you today that little Bethlehem, like your life, has potential. Like my life, it has potential, it has providence, and it has a privilege; and I want to share those with you. God chose to be born in that little troubled village. Now, you would expect the Son of God to be born in Jerusalem. I mean, at least it's a well-known city. But he was sending us a message. He was sending all of us a message. His grace comes to the humble and the contrite heart. He graces the humble with his presence. See, God is not impressed with what impresses us. He's not impressed with what impresses Hollywood. No, no, no, no. Listen to me. You might be down on yourself, and I know all about this, or you might feel that you are less than others or you're not measuring up wherever you might be. You might feel that you have failed miserably and you are so discouraged right now, but God wants to come on the inside of you to change all of that.
Bethlehem is also a reminder for all of us that God brings strength to the weak, that God gives value to the valueless. Why? Because we all, like Bethlehem, have potential. God sees us with a great potential. Perhaps, like Bethlehem, you feel insignificant. Perhaps, like Bethlehem, you feel you don't measure up. Like Bethlehem, you feel that you really don't matter. Perhaps, like Bethlehem, you feel that you've been passed by. Like Bethlehem, you may feel that you are down on yourself. Oh, but like Bethlehem, God can use you mightily. I know what I'm talking about. That's my testimony. Just as Bethlehem was a place of potential, you too is the place of potential. Everyone at the sound of my voice, you're the place of potential.
You see, when God looks at you, he doesn't look at you the way you look at yourself, he doesn't look at you the way others look at you. God looks at you of what you can become. Hear me right. The Lord looks at you individually. You might be masses of people sitting here. No, no. He doesn't see it that way. He sees you individually. He sees you individually, and he sees and he knows what you can become if you open your heart to him, if you open your life to him. He can see what you can offer him, and he sees what you can accomplish. The prophet Micah, "And you, Bethlehem, the least among all the cities of Judah, the least..." Jesus said, "No, no, no. Bethlehem is a place of potential".
Listen to me. God did not come to Caesar's palace; he did not come to Herod's court, but he came to that insignificant little town. Why? Today we can see and you can see yourself have potential just like Bethlehem. But secondly, Bethlehem was also a place of providence, a place of providence. Long centuries before Christ's birth, God foretold through his prophets Bethlehem would be the birthplace of his anointed Messiah. Matthew chapter 2, verse 5. When King Herod asked the high priest, you remember the Magi who were coming in, and they said, "We saw a star and didn't know what to do, and", and they thought, well, they assumed, "If this is a king, he's got to be born in the king's palace".
So they go to the king. They go to Herod, and Herod was confused. He said, "Well, wait a minute. Let me find out from the religious leaders. Let me find out what the Bible said about where the Messiah will be born". And the high priest without batting an eye he said, "Bethlehem of Judea. He will born in Bethlehem of Judea. Yeah". But Mary and Joseph, they're from the north, from Nazareth, 70 miles away from Bethlehem, but their origin is in the south. His origin is in Bethlehem because Mary is a descendant of King David of Judah. Seventy miles, that's 5 days journey. Bethlehem did not only become the place of potential, it became the place of providence. God made it happen. God made it happen. How come? Ah, how in the world God would move things around so that the prophecy is fulfilled and that Mary does not deliver her baby, virgin-born baby in Nazareth?
Luke chapter 2, verse 1 says, "In those days, a decree..." Some people will say, "Ah, happenstance or just circumstances". No, no, no, no, no, no. There is nothing, no such thing with God. In those days, there was a decree went out of Caesar Augustus that the whole world, Rome dominated the world. That the whole world has to register. This is the census, and the census taken is not like somebody come knocking on your door. No, no, no. You have to go to the place of your origin. So if you're from Ohio, or Iowa, or wherever you're from, you have to go back there for the census. But there's a whole lot more about this global census. There's a whole lot more. God was the one who was behind this census. He's behind that decree. God is the one who had Caesar issue that decree at the right time. Divine providence moved Caesar to issue that global decree. Caesar was an instrument in the hand of God. Caesar was moved by the hand of God.
God promised Jesus in Genesis 3:15 thousands of years before he was born in Bethlehem, and God moved events and circumstances. Why would the whole world be turned upside down? It has to be fulfilled. God's promise has to be fulfilled. God's Word has to be fulfilled. And just right on time, God used this Roman decree to move Mary and Joseph from Nazareth 70 miles all the way to Bethlehem, the home of origin of the tribe of Judah. He moved them from where their family and friends were to a place where they originally came from. If you think that things in your life are out of control, they are not out of God's control. Daniel in chapter 4, verse 17 said, "The Most High rules in the kingdoms of men". Proverbs 21:1 says, "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD".
And so, my friend, God is working his purposes out even in the midst of this global turmoil that we see around us. But you see, God is putting the whole world in motion to prepare it for the Second Coming of Jesus. God is working behind the scenes to bring all things to an end. God is working to get the world ready for the Antichrist so that when Christ return he can smite him with his power. Bethlehem is a place of providence, so is your life. Even though a lot of people didn't understand it at the time; here we are 2,000 years later, we fully comprehend it. Put yourself in their place at the time.
Because you see, in hindsight we look back 2,000 years we can see all this, but put yourself in their place. They were oppressed people. They were oppressed by foreign power, Rome. They were taxed out of the wazoo. They were forced to give that money that they did not have. Why? Why all of this particularly was happening at the time when Caesar issued that decree? And they must have wondered, and I'm sure you've wondered, I have wondered in the past, "Where is God in all of this"? Oh, God was there. God was there. At the same time, God was working to get them to Bethlehem because the hope of the world is going to be born where? In Bethlehem.
And they were traveling the most treacherous, the most rugged terrain in her trimester of pregnancy. Oh, my beloved friend, God was working his providence out so that the Messiah be born in Bethlehem of Judea so that God's promise may be fulfilled. So Bethlehem is a place of potential. Bethlehem is a place of providence. But thirdly, Bethlehem is a place of privilege. It's a place of privilege. Think with me. Think with me. What a truly awesome privilege that God will handpick that little town of all the other towns, hundreds of them, to cradle the Son of God. What a privilege. What a privileged town. Of all the cities, of all the towns, big and small, he chooses Bethlehem.
Why? Why Bethlehem? Why not Jerusalem? That's a place where the religious power resides. Listen to me. God is sending us a message, every one of us, and the message is this, because it continues to this day 2,000 years later. The hope of the world is not in religion. Did you get that? The hope of the world is not in religion. The only hope for the world is Jesus. Why not Rome? Rome is the political power of the whole known world at the time; but God wants you and everybody to know that the hope of the world is not in politics, the hope of the world is in Jesus.
But why not Athens? Athens was the seat of the intellectual power. The hope of the world is not in philosophy. It's in Jesus. And God privileged that little town of Bethlehem because the hope of the world can only be found in the Savior of the world; the Savior of your soul, and your soul, and your soul, and your soul, and your soul, and your soul, and your soul, and my soul. And that is why Bethlehem, which was nothing, was nothing, became the place of privilege. I don't know where you've placed your trust. I don't know where you place your confidence, whether it be in religion, whether it be in money, whether it be in another person, or whether it be in yourself and your ability. "I can do this".
I want to tell you today on the authority of the very Word of God that Jesus is the only one who is truly worthy of your trust. Jesus is the only one who can truly save you eternally. Jesus is the only one who can change your eternal destiny from hell to heaven. Jesus is the only one who can truly give you hope in the midst of hopelessness. Jesus is the only one who can remove all guilt and shame from your life. Jesus is the only one who can remove every doubt in your life and give you purpose for living. The Lord Jesus came from heaven on a mission and started in Bethlehem, lived for 33 1/3 of a year, and that mission took him to the cross, out of the city walls of Jerusalem. But before the cross there was a cradle, and the cradle was divinely placed in Bethlehem.
Let me get real with you. Divine moments come and go to all of us. I'm here to plead with you. You must recognize divine moments when they come into your life because they may never be repeated again. The innkeeper missed it. The people of Bethlehem missed it. Had the innkeeper knew who that baby was, he would have probably made room for him in his room. Had he recognized that moment of divine visitation, had he realized that this moment will never be recaptured, he would have acted differently. This very message that I am delivering to you, to your mailbox, to your ears right now could be a divine visitation. God says, "I've been talking to you. I've been trying to get your attention. Now I'm giving you probably one last warning".
I don't know, could be a divine opportunity. This message that I'm giving you today could be your last chance, I don't know, your last chance to hear and respond to the message of God's love in Jesus Christ. You can have that same privilege and have Christ be born in you. In fact, your greatest privilege is to have the Son of God born inside of you. I've met people all over the world. They're persecuted, they're tortured, they live in secret in case their family find out, and yet every time I talk to one of those people, every time, they speak of the privilege of suffering for Jesus. They say, "He died on a cross and shed his blood for me. His sinless body hung on that cross. What little persecution in this life". My goodness, I can tell you I feel about that small. I really do. You can become a Bethlehem tonight; and when you do, you become a place of potential, a place of providence, and a place of privilege.