One of the interesting paradoxes in the Christmas story is the two cities associated with Jesus’ home town: Bethlehem and Nazareth. Bethlehem as you know, is the city of David. It was the city of the great king. Jesus was from the “house of David” (Luke 2:4).  The greatest of all kings came from Bethlehem. Nazareth was the place from which “no good thing could come” (Matthew 2:23). The extremes of these two cities are significant. This paradox is educational for all who have ears to hear and eyes to see. They are not just geographical locations. To those who can think metaphorically, who can look outside the box, it’s a powerful figure of speech called a “merism.” A merism is a phrase that involves two extremes that is intended to include everything in between. It’s similar to Jesus’ own use of “The Alpha and Omega” referring to the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. It’s not that Jesus is only one or the other, but that He is both and everything in between.

Jesus made it clear to the woman at the well in John chapter 4, that true worship was not at a geographical location. True worship was neither in the mountains of Samaria nor in the mountains around Jerusalem. True worship was worship that was in the spirit and in truth. A. W. Tozer observed, “I wonder why the Crusaders did not consider that. Why all the starvation, the suffering, the blood? Why the long, weary treks to get to the place where Jesus was born, where He was crucified, where He died? There is no geographical advantage anywhere in the world. Not one of us will be a better Christian by living in Jerusalem. And not one of us is disadvantaged spiritually for living far from Judea or Galilee. Jesus Christ is in the very center of geography. Every place is just as near to Him as every other place! And every place is just as far, also. Geography means nothing in our relationship to our Savior and Lord.”

I truly loved my visits to Bethlehem and Nazareth in my tours of Israel, but the truth is they lend nothing of true spiritual significance in and of themselves. My son Chuck made a comment at our farewell dinner at the close of our last trip that rang true for all of us. He said that he enjoyed the tour and will always treasure the places he had seen but he knew that Israel would always be with him no matter where he was as he studied the Word of God. The scriptures testify of Jesus and Jesus is the hub, and geography is all around Him! As he was departing at his ascension, he told his followers, “Behold, I am with you always even to the ends of the earth” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus loved using figures of speech. In John 14:6 He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”