Summary: 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.
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.