Those celebrating Christmas in 2021,
I decided to wait until the day after Christmas this year to write my letter. I thought maybe I'd let the emails siphon down a little and not to burn up everyone's email. But I did want to try to squeeze in before all the after-Christmas-specials starting flooding in!
That said, I wish to say Merry Christmas to all. This has been a blessed season for Karen & me. We actually started filling our home with Christmas and Hanukkah decorations in late October and in the process, perhaps created a new tradition. Its been nice to walk through the house the past 2 months and be reminded of the blessed peace, joy and goodwill that defines the season. Its been a wonderful counter-punch to everything being thrown at us these days.
About a week ago I came across something that really brings the season into focus, season being defined by both the Christmas holidays and the season of history in which the world finds itself these days. It was something that I wrote in 2014 in my daily devotions. I titled the entry into my Daily Bread as, "Christmas with a Jewish Twist" and I have read it to my family several times through the years. I'd like to share it with each of you now...
A word about Beit Lechem. Beit Lechem is a complex Hebrew word that roughly translates into “House” or Beit, and “Bread”or lechem. However, it contains a much broader, deeper and richer meaning when you understand its roots. Beit Lechem speaks to a provision. It is a word that evolved in the Hebrew language originally translated more along the lines of “meat”. It also includes the idea of “fighting” or “banding together” in warfare or at least engaging together in the struggle...something we don't ordinarily equate with provision (maybe I'll write a letter on that one later!). But the basic idea is that the provision or sustenance came up out of the earth and became not only food but livelihood and a sense of community.
As Israel moved from a meat-based economy to a diet that included more grains, the meaning of Lechem evolved as well. It became more commonly translated “bread”. But step back and look at the more comprehensive picture. Lechem refers to the economic and bodily provisions coming forth into our lives that bind us together for the day ahead.
Why is this important in any way to us? Beit Lechem. Say it 3 times fast. It begins to sound like something else...Bethlehem! Its another one of those "bread crumbs" that God drops that lead us to Him. That’s because the Hebrew word for Bethlehem or the House of Lechem is all about provision. Bethlehem is the house of bread, meat, economic provision and community that binds together for the battle. This is where Jesus was born. Coincidence? No such thing exists in the Hebrew language and culture. Its no coincidence that God chose Bethlehem as the birthplace of His son. He is our Daily Bread, our Meat (think Lamb), our economic provisions, our binding together and our strength for the day. Beit Lechem is a reminder of that! From now on, every time we hear the word “Bethlehem” let us be reminded of the truth hidden in the name!
That said, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and the abundance that flows out of Beit Lechem!
Dr. Russell Thomas