Summary: There have been some people, because of their pedigree, who were destined for greatness the moment they were born. Such is the case with Jesus Christ, who surpasses them all in greatness and power!
The Second Sunday after Christmas
There have been some people, who, the minute they were born, everyone knew that they were destined for greatness. In 1500 A.D. a baby boy was born that all expected great things from. His name was Charles, and his father was Duke Philip, the Duke of Burgundy, and Charles’ mother was Joanna, the Daughter of the famous king and queen Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. On top of all this, Charles belonged to the famous Hapsburg family, which was the family that ruled the German states. So when Charles was only a day old, he already was a powerful person, being the future ruler of part of France, much of Germany, some of Italy, and all of Spain. This Charles became Charles V, one of the most powerful rulers ever in Europe. But this didn’t surprise anyone, because ever since Charles’ royal birth, everyone expected him to become great.
But that’s more the exception than the norm. I mean, Abraham Lincoln’s parents never looked at little Abe when he was a newborn out on the frontier and think, "this baby is destined for greatness! He’s going to be president of the US." They couldn’t have thought that. Albert Einstein was so slow as a child that this parents were told by his teachers that he’d never amount to anything. And as we look at our 4-day-old daughter, we don’t know what the future will hold for her. It’s fun to look at her and imagine where she will be in 25-30 years from now, what she’ll be.
But there was another baby who was destined for greatness the moment he was born. When Jesus was born of Mary, not only did the world know that he was going to be great, but the world also knew many of the details of Jesus’ life. That’s because God caused these details to be recorded in the Old Testament as people looked ahead to this great baby that was born. So this morning, we will look at this baby Jesus, Our Newborn King.
Our text is one of these prophecies about Jesus, and the Prophet Micah gave many details about what this baby would be like. The first verse of our text reads, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." You know, we are so used to hearing the name of Bethlehem. We have our hymns like "O Little Town of Bethlehem," we hear about this town during the Christmas readings, but 2,000 years ago, Bethlehem wasn’t a very well-known place. It was a pretty obscure little village, so obscure in fact that Micah has to tell us which Bethlehem he’s talking about. He says, "Bethlehem Ephrathah." In other words, he means the Bethlehem by Jerusalem.
Bethlehem did have one thing going for it. It was the birthplace of David, Israel’s second and greatest king. But even that didn’t cause Bethlehem to grow. It was still a pretty small town a few hundred years later when Micah wrote.
What if I told you that our next president would be from Chicago? That wouldn’t be too hard to believe, after all, it’s one of the larger cities in the US. But no, I don’t mean Chicago IL, I mean Chicago, WI, a tiny speck of a town in Northern Wisconsin. In the same way, Bethlehem Ephrathah wasn’t the place to look for the next king of Israel. And yet, the prophecy says, "though you are small, a ruler is going to come out of your humble little town." The origins of this ruler are from of old, from ancient times. Again, this reminds us of the connection between Jesus and his ancestor King David, but of course Christ’s roots go back even further, don’t they? Jesus has been king for all eternity.
Quite a lesson for us in humility, isn’t it? So often we are so interested in making sure that people treat us on the high level that we feel we deserve. We don’t take too kindly to being degraded. But Jesus wasn’t worried about that. Instead, Jesus shows his greatness by being more humble than we can possibly imagine. Not only did he have a humble birthplace, but God lowered himself to become a person, or, as we say in the Nicene Creed, "fully human."
Now you can probably remember stories from the Old Testament where God appeared to people as a person. In the Genesis we read about the Lord used to come down and walk around in the Garden of Eden. Later on we remember how God appeared as a traveling man to Abraham. So what was so unique about Jesus’ birth? Here it is: Jesus actually became a person. Unlike those O.T. stories, God didn’t just take on a human form, but in Jesus, God became a person. The fancy word that we use to describe this is the incarnation - or God becoming flesh. Listen to how verse 3 of our text describes the incarnation, "Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites."