In our Old Testament reading today, we heard from someone that we rarely hear from during the church year-the prophet Micah. Like John the Baptist, Micah prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah. He did so through his prophetic words. His prophecy is a vision for a life lived in the divine presence, and it’s this vision that we need to keep in our thoughts as we prepare to remember both Christ birth on that first Christmas over 2,000 years ago and his Second Coming at some point in the future.
Micah’s prophecy identifies Bethlehem-Ephrathah (Ephrathah was a lesser clan of the tribe of Judah) as the place and origin of the Messiah, the hoped for just ruler of Israel. That little town’s life and struggles are compared to birth pangs of a woman in labor. In ancient cultures, and even until recently, women’s status in secular and religious society was zero. Not only the town but also the heroine of Micah’s prophecy are small, of little note, of no significance in civil and religious life.
Micah’s prophecy included both the First and Second Coming of Jesus. He was born in Bethlehem and will some day establish his rule over the entire world in a kingdom of peace. By stating that Jesus will come from Bethlehem, Micah suggests that he will be a new David. This agrees with statements made by other prophets in Isaiah 9:6, Jeremiah 30:9, Ezekiel 34:23-24 and Hosea 3:5. Like David, Jesus will defeat Israel’s enemies and protect the Israelites from would-be invaders.
Micah prophesied that the Messiah would come in the majesty of the name of Yahweh, his God. In the culture of Micah’s time, a person’s name was more than a label to identify him or her. Something of that person’s identity was considered to be tied up in that name. The belief was that the person’s name expressed something of the person’s character. Something of the power of that person was embedded in their name. Jesus fits into this belief. Jesus was God in human form with all of God’s character and power.
The Old Testament is a trail that leads to the Messiah. God gives us clear clues in Scripture so we can recognize the true Messiah when he returns. These same signs were given to people in Old Testament times so that they would know when and where Christ would be born.
So why did God choose an insignificant person such as Mary to bear His Son? Why did God choose Bethlehem as Jesus’ birthplace? Well, God always chooses ordinary people, places and things to do extraordinary things for him. With God, we must expect the unexpected. It was prophesied that Bethlehem would be Jesus’ birthplace, and that prophecy was fulfilled on that first Christmas. Where we are from is not nearly as important as what God is creating us to be.
God is a God of surprises. He addresses impossible situations on the most unlikely ways. In the case of the birth of Jesus, God acts small. His plan was for the Messiah who would deliver the people to come from Bethlehem, which was the birthplace of David’s father Jesse.
Jesus reigns at God’s request, and it was prophesied that Jesus would be a descendant of David. Jesus was the fulfillment of that prophecy. Jesus’ rule and protection of his people was the result of God’s authority and power. That rule, protection and authority are for all who believe in Jesus, so they can live with him without fear. They will be united.
The world is constantly searching for peace, but that search is an empty one. Instead of looking to Jesus, the world looks to drugs, alcohol, money and relationships. These do not provide peace. They only provide turmoil. How many lives have been ruined by drugs and alcohol? How many marriages have suffered because of drug or alcohol abuse or adultery? True peace can never be found in worldly pleasures. True peace can only be found by knowing Jesus, the long-prophesied prince of peace. He stands with open arms waiting to welcome us.
This does not mean that we should not pray for peace and harmony in our world, especially in light of the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernadino. On the contrary, we are commanded to pray for peace and unity. Jesus will bring peace to our hurting world one day. In the meantime, he offers peace to the hearts of those who love him.
God’s reign speaks of hope that comes from disasters, strife and suffering. His reign speaks of hope and salvation that will come from people and places that are nothing in the eyes of the world. Micah-a minor prophet from an obscure village-addresses this in his prophecy. God values what the world does not value. He takes what the world sees as worthless and holds it closest to his heart. We as humans, especially people who the world sees as nothing, are close to God’s heart, and it is because we are close to him that he gave us the greatest Christmas gift of all-Jesus. In return, we are to give back to him by loving others as he loves us. We must give true justice to everyone we meet. We must treat others in the same fair way that we want them to treat us and in the same fair way God treats us. We must have compassion for others just as God has compassion for us. In these troubled times when many of us don’t feel safe, Micah reminds us that God has promised security and peace, and that security and peace comes from the Prince of Peace himself.
The issue that confronts us as people of faith sooner or later becomes, “If I call myself a Christian, then will I actually choose to live like one?” Am I willing to let the grown-up Jesus rule, as Micah put it. Am I willing follow where Christ leads, to do what Christ asks? I mean, if we seriously consider the things that Jesus commanded, then choosing to sign on with him is not an easy choice to make. Have you really listened to some of the stuff He requests of us? There is an old saying that actions speak louder than words. It’s fine for us to say that we want to live like a Christian, but our deeds must show that we want to live like Christians. The only way for us to have true peace is to say that we want to live like Christians and then act like we want to live as Christians. The only way that can happen is if we welcome the Prince of Peace into our lives with open arms. Only then will we have the peace of Christ.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1211)
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- David McGee, “Peace.” Retrieved from crossthebridge.com
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010)
- Ed Young, “A Daily Word.” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Exegesis for Micah 5:2-5. Retrieved from lectionary.org
- Melinda Quivik, “Commentary on Micah 5:2-5.” Retrieved from http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1484
- The Rev. Dr. Wiley Stephens, “The Place Where Heaven Will Touch the Earth.” Retrieved from http://day1.org/1612-the_place_where_heaven_will_touch_the_earth.print
- Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 4th Sunday of Advent-C.” Retrieved from preacherexchange.org
- Butch Odom, “Fourth Sunday of Advent 2015-Micah 5:4-5”. Retrieved from email@example.com
- The Rev. Dr. Michael Brown, “The Baby is the Easy Part.” Retrieved from http://day1.org/690-2-the_baby_is_the_easy_part.print.
- “Volume 2 Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 20, 2015.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org