“O Little Town of Bethlehem”

All of the words Charles Jennens chose for the libretto of Handel’s Messiah are from the Bible. Tassilo Erhardt wrote, “its principal aim is not to tell the story of Jesus’ life, but to point out that the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Messiah are fulfilled in the person of Jesus.”1 However, those Bible passages are not the only Old Testament prophecies Jesus fulfilled. Dale and Elaine Routon have said,

“The Old Testament contains over three hundred references to the coming Messiah (Anointed One). Many of those prophecies Christ specifically applied to Himself…

“Someone may suggest that Christ deliberately tried to fulfill these prophecies in order to lay claim to Messiahship. Notice, however, that many of these prophecies are incidents over which Christ could have had no control unless He was God.”2

As an unborn child the Lord Jesus had no control over the timing of Caesar Augustus’ decree that sent Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem to be counted. Nor as an unborn child would He have had control over the timing of his birth while they were in Bethlehem. Yet there He was born some 700 years after Micah prophesied.

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.”
Micah 5:2

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.
Luke 2:1–5

The Nativity: Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale. Public Domain.
1Johan van Veen, Handel’s Messiah staged Holland Festival Early Music 2000, musica Dei donum.
2Dale and Elaine Routon, Can We Know? An Examination of the Claims of Christianity (Morrison and Gibb, Limited, London and Edinburgh: 1965) 58, 59.

Copyright ©2020–2021 Iwana Carpenter

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