Every year, our son’s middle school basketball team plays a team from a small Catholic school about twenty minutes away.
Deep in southern Indiana, on the banks of the Ohio River, the town looks forgotten. In the flat light of a gray, rainy day, houses are small and close together, paint is peeling, and the Dollar General store has driven the Family Dollar store down the road out of business – the faded letters on the sign are mute testament to the battle it lost.
Sadness settles in your soul just from driving through the town. The local “high rise” (as it says on the sign) is a four-story apartment building with a blue metal roof that looks like it was built as a nuclear fallout shelter.
This town looks depressing more than charming, and yet, I’m not being fair. There is life. Two thousand residents live and raise their kids and work there. Several churches are located in a few block radius, and while their buildings are old, people are still gathering. The Catholic church with the school still conducts their Saturday evening Mass – the priest sits on the stage while the tournament is going on right next door.
On the way out of town, we pass a carryout pizza place and a Mexican restaurant that boasts a caboose as part of its charm. We just want to get home as soon as we can.
It’s not really a nice place to visit, and yet, another small town just a few miles from Jerusalem once didn’t have much going for it until the Savior of the world was born there.
Sometimes, we judge too quickly because big things can come out of small places.
David had been annointed the future king in Bethlehem, but other than that moment, the town didn’t have much reason to be known for anything. But there it is, right there in Micah 5:2 – “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.”
Yep, Bethlehem, and now a town that would have otherwise been consigned to the dustbin of history is the most well-known birthplace ever.
There’s a lesson here. Jesus came from a town and a place no one else would have chosen. He didn’t make his grand entrance in the formal temples of Jerusalem with all the proper tradition and finery. He picked a dirty stable on the backside of nowhere.
Are we like Jesus? Do we look for the weak and lowly places and people, or are we obsessed with the strong and powerful?
Good things can come from unexpected places because God specializes in confounding the wisdom of this world with his own plan, born from before the beginning of time. Don’t despise the day of small things, for in the end, the big things are made up of lots of little things.