One of my childhood memories was when a school music teacher took some class time to sing some Christmas carols (in those days it was permitted). Since Jewish children were not required to participate, we would go over to the corner of the room and talk about life. One of the songs they would sing was “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” which meant nothing to me then because I did not connect the town with Israel and the Jewish people. It was not until years later that I understood the significance of that song.
The Jewish prophet Micah’s ministry took place during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, three kings of Judah, between the years of about 750-686 BC. Micah was calling the people to repentance. He let them know that, even though judgment was coming, God loved His people and would one day bring a deliverer. In doing so, he named a small town where the Messiah, the Anointed One, would be born.
When Matthew wrote his Gospel, he was bringing incredible news. He quoted prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures to make his point that our long-awaited Messiah had come, and His name was Jesus. In quoting Micah 5:2, Matthew wrote, “And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler who will shepherd My people Israel” (Matthew 2:6). In verse 2, we are told that a star indicated where this shepherd had been born. Numbers 24:17 speaks of a star that will come from Judah. This star was the sign that the prophecy of Micah had come to pass. And now I know the real meaning of the song, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”