I wear a pendant around my neck that is precious to me. It is a silver casting of an ancient seal my friend Dr. Gabriel Barkay found as he sifted the sands of Israel. The small, 2,700 year old piece of clay bore a three line Hebrew inscription. The first line reads “7th”. The last line- “king”.
The center line, in crumbling script, reads “Bethlehem”.
Bethlehem- The tiny, insignificant town God chose for the birth of His Son, Jesus.
The name Bethlehem means “house of bread.”
Bread was essential to the ancient Middle Eastern diet. It was present at every meal and placed in a position of central honor on the table. Bread was so central to Middle Eastern existence that there are an abundance of idioms related to bread in the culture Jesus chose as His own.
Is it any surprise that Jesus chose bread., that which encompasses all one must have to sustain life itself, as the perfect picture for Himself?
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35
Then during His last meal with His disciples-
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.'” Matthew 26:26
How fitting that the One who was the true Bread of Life would be born in Bethlehem, the “house of bread.”
I love the Prayer After Communion in the Anglican Church. I think it beautifully captures the humility and gratitude that overwhelms my heart when I consider just how far God went to redeem me as His own, and how deep The Father’s Love runs for His rebellious creation.
Almighty God, Eternal Father,
we have sat at your feet,
learned from your word,
and eaten from your table.
We give you thanks and praise
for accepting us into your family.
Send us out with your blessing,
to live and to witness for you
in the power of your Spirit,
through Jesus Christ,
the First Born from the dead. Amen.