Two intriguing stories have come together in recent days. Many papers carried a story from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, where archaeologists have unveiled the remains of a private dwelling dated to the first century, the first from that period to be uncovered there.

The dwelling was found, as it turned out, as excavations were being done in preparation for the construction of a new Christian center. Though Nazareth was a backwater village of probably no more than fifty homes in Jesus’ day, it’s now the largest Arab town in Israel (right), home to 65,000 people.

Because so much history lies beneath the soil, any construction in Israel must be preceded by archaeological soundings. Now that the first-century home has been found, it will be incorporated into the new center, where future tourists will no doubt speculate about whether Jesus ever played or stayed in or about the house.

Fewer news outlets carried another remarkable story relative to archaeology. Scientists working with seeds recovered from a 4,000-year-old cave dwelling in Turkey’s Kutahya province have coaxed an ancient lentil seed into sprouting. The plant is weak, as one would expect, but scientists hope they can keep it alive long enough to flower and produce seeds of its own. Assuming the age of the seed is confirmed, success would prove a boon to plant geneticists, who would have their first chance at comparing the genetic makeup of lentils in antiquity with today’s varieties.

Who would have thought that a 4,000-year-old seed could still sprout and grow? It’s amazing.

And who would have thought Isaiah’s prediction that “a shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse” (Isa. 11:1) would come to flower more than 700 years later in the life of a boy who would grow up in that rustic hamlet of Nazareth and go on to become the savior of the world?

Something worth pondering on this day, this Christmas day.

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