Feeling exhausted and depleted, with meager resources, a Jewish widow named Naomi and her foreign widowed daughter-in-law come to Bethlehem. How could life ever be abundant or full for them again? Centuries later, Mary comes to Bethlehem nine months pregnant–full of anticipation, uncertainties, hopes. For us now, could events that centered in Bethlehem point the way for us to become whole, complete—full as God intends us to be?
Read Ruth 1:1-7 and 15-22
1. Why do Naomi and Ruth come to Bethlehem?
2. From the account in Ruth 1:15-22, how has Ruth emptied herself as she comes to Bethlehem?
In Ruth 1:20-21, how does Naomi describe her situation? Why?
Read Ruth 4:13-17
3. How does this section show that Ruth, who came to Bethlehem empty, becomes full?
In Bethlehem, how is Naomi blessed again with fullness?
4. Read the geneology listed in Ruth 4:21-22 and Matthew 1:1, 5-6. What significance for Ruth do you see in those records?
Read Luke 2:1-20
5. Why do Joseph and Mary have to go to Bethlehem?
6. Consider the contrast between Mary and Naomi as they approach Bethlehem: one bereft of children, one great with child; one empty, the other full. What might each be thinking?
7. What must Mary think about as she ponders “all these things” (verse 19)?
The shepherds return to the same sheep, the same occupation. How do you think they are different?
8. What do you know of emptiness and of fullness in life? Share an experience of feeling either empty or full.
How does the birth of Jesus make a difference in your life?
Read Philippians 2:5-11
9. What does this passage tell of how and why Jesus came empty to Bethlehem? Describe the fullness he gave up in order to come. Describe the steps he took to empty himself.
10. If you were to make a graph of these verses, what would be the low point? The high point? How would you compare what Ruth did with what Jesus did in coming to Bethlehem? Find at least five points of similarity and three points of difference.
11. What are the two reactions described in Philippians 2:9-11 to Jesus’ coming? How, particularly at this time of year, may you bow the knee and confess with your tongue that Jesus Christ is Lord? Share some practical ways of making Christmas more meaningful among your family and friends.
12. Read aloud John 1:10-14, 16, 17. What do these verses reveal about the emptiness Jesus experienced, the fullness he brought, and the fullness that was in him? What do these verses tell you about the meaning of Christmas?
13. What do you understand about what it means to receive him and believe in his name (verse 12)? What is the promise?
14. As you behold Jesus—full of grace and truth—what is your response to him?
These passages have had much to say about being empty and being full. If we are full of ourselves and full of things, we have no room for Jesus. If we recognize our emptiness and our need, he can come and fill our lives with grace and truth and life. Christmas reminds us of the evening at Bethlehem in which the fullness of God entered our emptiness through Jesus Christ.
Read aloud together
Thou didst leave Thy throne and Thy kingly crown
When Thou camest to earth for me;
But in Bethlehem’s home there was found no room
For Thy holy nativity:
O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
There is room in my heart for Thee.
– Emily Elizabeth Steele Elliot, 1864