This is going to sound like a John Mellencamp song, but I was born in a small town. Born and raised in Elwood, IL. Growing up, the population sign as you drove into town said 720. We used to joke that there were more cows than people. Fast-forward to 2019, and the middle school where I work has more students than the entire town of Elwood had when I was growing up. My 8th grade graduating class was 33. I teach 5 class periods a day that have about 30 students each. When you grow up in a small town, you never expect anyone coming out of there and going on to become world famous. For example, how would anyone from such a small town ever have a chance to get scouted for a professional sport or by an acting talent agent? In the age before social media, it just didn’t happen.
Since then, Elwood has undergone significant changes. Lots of warehouses, and trucks. But also, we gained a national cemetery, Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. And several years ago, for Memorial Day, President Obama came to little old Elwood as part of the Memorial Day festivities at the cemetery. In all my childhood, I never thought we would have a sitting or retired president ever come to my hometown, and yet it happened.
In the same way, no one would have ever imagined anything amazing coming out of Bethlehem. It was just a small village built on an oasis in the Judean hill country. It was known for its excellent farmland. But, here in Micah, written 700 or so years before Christ, it is announced that little old Bethlehem is destined for something big. In the most unlikely of places, a savior for all humanity will be born. I’m sure as this was being read aloud for the first time, people were all looking at each other and giving the collective eye roll, the same eye roll I get from my middle schoolers every time I tell a good dad joke. Really? Bethlehem?
Funny how God always has a habit of using the small, unassuming, unimportant places and people for his works. And, when he came to this Earth in human form, he stooped so low as to be born the same way as every other human before and after. He went through the vulnerability of infancy and the rest of childhood just like everyone else. Apprenticed in a carpenter shop. Had just a regular old life for the most part in his first 30 years. In all of his greatness, instead of coming down to Earth with clouds and lightning bolts, he came no different than any of the rest of us. Instead of being born in a palace into a wealthy family, he was born in a stable to a blue collar family.
God continually has used ordinary people and places to make extraordinary things happen for his glory. And, if we stick with him, he also will use ordinary you and me to amazing things for his glory as well. Will you be ready when he calls your name?