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From Bethlehem you can see a hill. Herod the Great built it, about 20 years before Jesus’ birth. Herod took a high hill and ordered a palace built on top. He then had rock piled around it, making it bigger and more majestic. He built it luxurious, a summer palace. He built it strong, a fortress. He built it to last, for his burial. (They recently found his tomb there.) He called it the “Herodion,” after himself of course. It was a monument to his greatness.

Herod was an insecure man. His kingship credentials were not great. He only held the throne because the Romans found him useful. He was not part of the kingly line, the family of David. Herod desperately wanted to be great. He built monuments to his greatness, so everyone would know. Like that hill you can see from Bethlehem.

Joseph’s family was from Bethlehem. Maybe he grew up there, in the shadow of the Herodion. Unlike Herod, Joseph really was part of the royal line. Yet he only gets mentioned a few times in the Bible. He makes no speeches. He was just a carpenter, a blue-collar working guy.

Herod desperately needed everyone to know his greatness. He raised up a hill so they would not forget. Joseph did not want to be anything. He raised the Messiah.

Herod shaped a mountain. As his earthly father, Joseph shaped Jesus, who shapes us and millions.

Maybe it comes to this. Does true greatness come from what we do? Or, does it come from what God does in us, and through us? If greatness is about what we do, how much do we have to accomplish to be successful? If greatness comes from God, then what God does through us will be our success, and more than enough.

If you missed an entry in our Advent devotions series, please click here to see all previously posted devotions.