In a small town in Indiana in 1954 a coach with a past that probably doesn’t fit the pedigree of most successful coaches took a team to the state championships. He had a rocky relationship with the team and the community at first. The town has a town meeting to decide whether to keep him as coach. When the decision comes down in favor of the coach, the team begins to dominate and eventually wins the state championship. At least that’s what the movie said. Movies tend to sensationalize things but the movie “Hoosiers” is loosely based on the story of Milam, Indiana’s improbable run to the state championship in ’54. No one would have expected that result when the year began. Small town teams weren’t expected to compete against the big teams. But Milam did.
Bethlehem was a pretty small town. Sure, David had come from there and was recognized as the greatest King of Israel, but other than that, it was a pretty small town. I’m sure that when Micah spoke about Bethlehem Ephrathah that people smiled, knowing better. And yet, the words of Micah were recognized as the origin of the Messiah. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)
When the Magi came, following the star, they went to Jerusalem, the capitol city. Where else would you expect a king to be born? I’m sure that they expected great celebrations – after all, a new heir to the throne was to have been born. Yet they arrived and couldn’t find the new king. So they went to the palace and nosed around, asking questions that made Herod, the titular King of Israel nervous: “where’s the one that was born to be king?” Herod, knowing that no one in his household had given birth, referred them to the scribes who looked up the info and suggested that they look in Bethlehem. And so the wise men left the bustling city of Jerusalem for the back water sticks of Bethlehem. It’s interesting that these religious leaders, hearing the question from religious leaders of a different religion, didn’t even bother to wonder why they asked. They answered the question asked and then went back to business as normal. The magi, however, continued their journey and eventually found Jesus in a house (not the manger, notice) and worshiped Him there.
One of the great theological truths that Christians believe is that even though Jesus was born as a baby, He was from ancient times: He was in the beginning and was the agent of creation. All the glory and splendor that was God compressed into the form of a tiny child, born in a small town. God works in some mighty strange ways. How often does He avoid the spectacular and work through the ordinary? He came in the still small voice to Elijah after the spectacular victory. Jesus refused the spectacular during the temptation from Satan. I point that out because so often people think that they are too ordinary, too normal to be used by God. They look to the so called great leaders in the church and wonder how they can even compare as a servant of God. While they may not be able to speak eloquently in proclaiming the gospel, their eloquence can be found in doing the gospel on a daily basis: caring for the poor, loving the outcasts, sharing the mercy and grace of God with people on a one to one basis. Jesus wasn’t born in an earthly palace, He was born in a manger in a small backwater town. An ordinary birth to empower ordinary people everywhere.
Lord, You do love ordinary people. The world seeks the spectacular, the glitz and the glitter. You seek to spread Your mercy and grace through the everyday love and actions of Your people. Use me.