From You Shall Come ForthDecember 24, 2021
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2 ESV). Advent culminates in the arrival of God. Today, we light the candle of LOVE. God is love, and He reveals Himself in the sending of His one and only Son. Here at International Lutheran Church, we have been reflecting on the Good Word of the prophets that speak to us of our Savior’s coming. The prophet Micah shares with us more than just the good word of where the Messiah will be born, but also how through the small and insignificant things of life, God comes to us.
Micah was a pre-exilic prophet and contemporary of that more famous 8th century prophet Isaiah. While their message of the coming judgement of God upon the sin of all mankind was similar, so was their deep understanding of God’s ultimate aim to reveal His love and mercy to all people. Micah is famous for his prediction of the birthplace of the Messiah as we read this text each year. But Micah is also known for his radical understanding of fidelity to God and the fulfillment of a key Old Testament term – justice.
Near the end of his prophecy, Micah ponders the value and purpose of sacrifice and what he could give in exchange for his soul as he asks, “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:7-8). This radical and seemingly modern view of daily ritual and the Temple worship has caused many to believe that this section was written much later, perhaps even after the return from exile and the establishment of synagogue life and piety. Yet this interpretation misses the point of Micah and the whole Old Testament view of all sacrifices as pointing to the One who would sacrifice Himself to remove our guilt – Jesus, God’s own Son. This truth is wrapped up in the first acts of God even before He ushered our parents from the garden in the clothes that He had provided (Genesis 3:21). The only true sacrifice is the One that God provides as He reveals His love and kindness to us.
This loving kindness is emphasized for us further as Micah announces where the Messiah, the Son of David yet David’s Lord, would be born. God reveals not only the where but also the how of His salvation. In and through the seemingly insignificant and small, God will exalt and lift up even this little place. This little town of Bethlehem becomes a sign in itself of how God has not missed or looked over those little ones among us; or even how He can use the small and inconsequential to do great things. The smallest clan reveals that God does not need our greatness to accomplish His might acts. This town where Naomi was from and the Moabite woman, Ruth, who clung to her widowed mother-in-law in faith, becomes the hometown of a little boy who slays the great and mighty Goliath. Again, and again God chooses the weak and the small to show us His loving kindness.
Simple water, wine and bread are normal, everyday objects and yet God’s Word and promise have made them the vehicles of His loving kindness in our lives. Even you and I are transformed through this Bethlehem Babe to be the very daughters and sons of God as we are made part of His family in Baptism. We become like the shepherds, kings and rulers declaring His kingdom and reign of love to the ends of the earth. Today at International Lutheran Church, we are taught once again by our children of God’s love come down. Through our Sunday School, our hearts are brought to a little town, yet more than just a place, rather a point of seeing just how simple yet profound this story is for all. As our children share this Good Word of the Prophet Micah and the happy tidings of even where the Child is to be born, we remember that it is His love of mercy and kindness that has moved Him to come to abide with us. As we, His Advent people, live in the Good Word proclaimed to us, may His loving kindness be revealed in and through our lives and to His glory.