Again in looking at Micah 5:2 we find the whole name of the place of Christ's birth was Bethlehem Ephrathah. Ephrathah, or Ephrath, is the ancient name for the town of Bethlehem and significantly means fruitful.
We later find again in Jesus teaching the significance of the fruit that came out of this Little Town of Bethlehem when Jesus said, 'I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:1-5
The fruits of our Christian life are the work of God. Each of us can see the life and work of God in others - in ministry, in love, in commitment, courage, endurance, and ordinary daily kindness and compassion. Each of us, too, is gifted in some unique way. We can bear fruit for God in a way nobody else can. The tone of the gospel is different in everyone who spreads it. Prayer helps us recognise the fruits, develop them and offer them in the service of God and God's people.
The closeness of the relationship with ourselves and Jesus is like branch and tree. One gives life to the other and draws life from the other. A real relationship with Jesus is life-giving - it is loving, healing and challenging. It brings life to the soul and energy to the body. The relationship itself bears fruit and brings to each of us a loving and energetic quality of life.
Perhaps the last verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks is an apt prayer for us today.
O holy Child of Bethlehem,
descend to us, we pray,
cast out our sin and enter in,
be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
our Lord Immanuel!