Sermon for Advent 4 and our Sunday School Christmas program.
2 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 coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
4 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
5 And he shall be their peace.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Where you are from can say a lot about you. If someone tells you they are from Wisconsin, you can picture them wearing their cheese head and green jersey on Sunday. If someone tells you they are from Alabama, you can see their old pickup with a Confederate flag and gun rack on the back window. In high school, I went on a trip to Washington D.C. with other high schoolers from across the country. When they heard I was from North Dakota, they inevitably responded, “Oh! Fargo, eh?” (the movie Fargo had recently been released).
Where you are from can say a lot about you. And this text from Micah tells us about a ruler who would come from the little town of Bethlehem.
She’s a little town with a long, sad story of pain and sorrow. In Bethlehem, Jacob buried Rachel – the wife he loved (Gen. 35:16, 19; 48:7). Bethlehem was the home of a concubine who was brutally raped and killed which led to a civil war (Jdg. 19-20). Bethlehem was the place of a severe famine that drove Naomi, her husband, and her two sons into the pagan land of Moab. Widowed and sonless, Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, returned to Bethlehem to spend the rest of their lonely days. And, saddest of all, Bethlehem is where the infant boys were slaughtered after Herod learned from the magi that the King of the Jews had been born there.
Even though Bethlehem had her sad stories, she produced an important ruler too. After returning with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem, Ruth got remarried to a man named Boaz. Boaz and Ruth had a son named Obed. Obed had a son named Jesse. Jesse had eight sons – the youngest was named David. God sent Samuel to Bethlehem – of all places – to anoint a new king because King Saul had abandoned God. Fearing that Saul would kill him for this, Samuel went, as God directed him, to the house of Jesse. Seven of Jesse’s sons were paraded before Samuel, but God told him that none of those were to be the new king.
So Samuel asks Jesse if he has any more sons. There was the youngest, but he was too unimportant to be there when Samuel came, so he was out tending the sheep. What interest could there be in him? Samuel says, “Send for him, for we will not sit down until he comes here.” When David arrives, God tells Samuel to anoint him as king. From his humble beginnings, in that sad, little town of Bethlehem, shepherd David was anointed to be king. But David quickly forgot his lowly roots. David became a king with blood on his hands, a murderer.
So here in Micah, God says, “It’s back to the little town of Bethlehem again.” Again, from humble, insignificant Bethlehem, God will raise up one who will rule Israel. But he isn’t really from Bethlehem either. His “coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”
Where you are from can say a lot about you, and when you combine these two statements from Micah, you learn a lot about this Ruler. He is from the tiny town whose name means “House of Bread,” but his coming is also from ancient days. If His coming is from ancient days, then He is the Ancient of Days. This ruler is, of course, Jesus. Because Jesus is from ancient days and from Bethlehem, “House of Bread,” He is the Living Bread which came down from heaven (Jn. 6:35, 41).
Jesus, the ancient Ruler from the House of Bread, He comes to rule shepherd you, His people, in the strength and majesty of God.
Where you are from says a lot about you. Brothers and sisters in Christ, you are citizens of the kingdom of this Ruler who comes from ancient days. You are part of the kingdom of God because your Ruler is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (1 Pet. 1:18-20). You dwell secure because Jesus has fully paid for all your sins on the cross. And though you live in this world full of tribulation, Jesus Himself is your peace because He has reconciled you back to God. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.