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— By Richard Merritt

The limestone mountains of the Appalachians and the Ozarks are riddled with caves. Some are large, some small. Some caves wander inside the mountains and others extend just a few feet from the opening.

In the Holy Land where Jesus walked, there were many caves. One cave was near a structure called an inn. It was common for buildings to be near caves. In one small cave, Jesus was born.

In the Bible, caves are mentioned frequently. In the limestone formations in Syria, there are many caves. Lot took refuge in a cave. Abraham purchased a cave in which his beloved wife Sarah was buried. Later, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah and Jacob were buried in that same cave. In a particularly large cavern, David hid from Saul. Near Engedi, David cut off the hem of Saul’s robe in a cave. Obadiah hid the prophets in a cave. Elijah hid in a cave.

The cleft of the Rock in Mt. Horeb was probably a cave. When Gideon served as a judge, the Israelites hid in caves from the Midianites in the rugged mountainous country in the territory of Manasseh. Caves were burial places, dwelling places and prisons.

The ancient red rock city called Petra had many homes in the caves in the walls of the shallow cup valley between the high mountains.

When Joseph and Mary reached Bethlehem, it was the end of a long, arduous journey. She was great with child. The city was thronged with many that returned to the place of their birth to pay taxes.

By the time Joseph and Mary arrived, there was no place for them to lodge for the night. The stable by the side of the inn was a cave. The manger was the place where the baby Jesus was laid. Mary and Joseph probably made their bed on the straw. The dirtiest motel in which you’ve ever stayed is likely cleaner that the stable where Jesus was born.

Although a king, baby Jesus was not born in a palace. He spent His first night on earth in a manger. The manger was a small feed trough for the animals. I have been to dairy farms and beef cattle farms when the cattle were fed. Their feed troughs were not close to being clean.

The pure, holy and lovely Son of God was laid in the manger in swaddling clothes. This very cheap cloth was wound around the baby.

The only visitors that night that the Bible records were the shepherds. Shepherds were often dirty, unclean individuals that lived with their flocks in the hills and mountains of Judea for days or months at a time.

If Jesus had been born in a palace, the shepherds would not have been admitted to see Him. In the cave, used for a stable, lying in a manger, the Son of God from Heaven was adored by the filthy shepherds.

The shepherds received God’s invitation to visit His Son Jesus. They saw the brightly shining glory of God at night. An angel spoke to them telling them where and how to identify God’s Son Jesus.

They would find Him in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes in the town of Bethlehem. In this insignificant town, in an insignificant cave Jesus the King of glory was born.

The message the angel related to the lowly shepherds was Christ the Savior was born. Jesus Christ the Savior’s birth gave glory to God. His life and His words offered peace and good will toward all people. In this season and every season, Jesus is still the source of peace.

The saying is true: Know Jesus, know peace.

No Jesus, no peace.

Jesus the Son of God came to earth to do the Father’s will, to seek and save the lost, to establish His church and to die on Calvary as every sinner’s substitute. He lives today to offer salvation to whosoever will receive. Try it, you’ll like it.

(Merritt is the pastor at Trinity Missionary Baptist Church.)

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