Long before Jesus was born that night in Bethlehem, this small city became synonymous with sorrow and pain, but also, even more importantly, with hope.
Our first glimpse into the little town of Bethlehem was when Jacob’s family was traveling to Ephrathah. Shortly before making it to that city, Jacob’s wife, Rachel, went into labor. It was hard labor and resulted in her death. Rachel was Jacob's only wife that he loved. He had served her father for 14 years for her but had not even served one day for Leah, whom he had been tricked into marrying. (Genesis 29:1-33)
Rachel was not comforted by the fact that she had given birth to a son. Instead, with her final breaths she named her son "Ben-oni," which means "son of my sorrow/pain." Jacob, however, called him Ben-jamin, which means "son of my right hand." (Gen. 35:16-21)
At that very same time, Jacob also was filled with the sorrow of losing his beloved Rachel! She was the only wife to whom he had devoted his love and attention through his marriages. Jacob had to bury Rachel beside the road at Bethlehem.
For the remainder of the Bible, Bethlehem is a reminder both of pain and sorrow ("Son of my Sorrow") but also of power and hope of Jesus ("Son of my Right hand").
This was the beginning of the perfect backdrop against which God chose to send His son into the world. Bethlehem would continue a story of unbearable suffering but also of unstoppable hope of the rescue to come. "Look," Stephen said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." (Act 7:56)
Jesus is the Man of Sorrows! Jesus is the Son of God’s right hand! This is why God chose to have this son of Israel be the dually named son; "They that live in the land of the shadow of death: (Pain and Sorrow) upon them light has dawned." (Hope) Isaiah 9:2.
Unto us a child is born! Unto us a son is given! Jesus came into the world directly into pain and suffering. His suffering did not start in Gethsemane. It started in Bethlehem the night He was born! It was by this choice that He wanted the world to know that He had come to comfort those in every pain and sorrow.
He is not a by-standing observer. He is present with us when life is more than we can bear. He is the perfect priest who is able to sympathize with us in all our weaknesses. (Hebrews 4:15) We must, however, first come to Him for the comfort and hope that He offers. Whether you have never given your pain to Him or whether you have a new pain, sorrow, grief or crushing load of guilt, Jesus is the only complete comfort for your heart and soul.
Tonight, take some time to give the sorrow of this year to Him. He has proven that He loves you and wants to prove it to you again.
If you have not found Jesus' greatest gift of forgiveness, I encourage you to invite Him to be your Lord and Savior. His forgiveness and the grace to follow Him are the ultimate hope of the souls of all mankind.
Jeff Faville was born and raised in Oregon. With a J.D. in law, a Masters in Ministry from Pacific Evangelical School of Ministry and a general contracting business, he is currently licensed and pursuing ordination.