Sermon for December 19, 2021 Advent 4/Communion “But you…who think you are least”
My upfront claim is that I love the prophet Micah. He is an optimist, he is passionate about God and is delightfully unrelenting in his quest for the people to seek and find God in the most surprising places.
Today we hear “but you O Bethlehem, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel.” This must have sounded like a cruel joke, for Bethlehem was the receiving end of countless nasty jokes. And all the people from other towns must have viewed this as just another in a long line of jabs at the odd town of Bethlehem. Micah was not joking or kidding, he was very serious. Even though the people had to wait more than 700 years the prophesy did come true. Rejoicing erupted from every home when the news “for unto you is born this day in the town of Bethlehem the Messiah”
There are plenty of nuances and treads to follow in this text, or in any text for that matter. For today, I would like to point to two: expect surprises and patience.
Have you noticed we are becoming increasingly inpatient? I sent a text 10 seconds ago, then a follow up text and a tweet, what is taking so long? Did you notice the slowest line is the one I’m in? So if you are out shopping and see me in a line…pick another one! We want what we want instantly. The text reminds us that many good things take time and some of the best things ever take more than one life-time or many generations. We do not know what we are preparing or what we are part of in the grand expanse of time.
Is Einstein the offspring of just his parents or is there a long ancestry there where all the previous relations and life events had to happen for his birth to be possible? Or for that matter any birth. We are all the result of a long ancestry and are a part of generations to come. We fit in and matter in the expanse of time even though we cannot see it from our limited perspective. Even Jesus is given an ancestry. Jesus the son of Mary and Joseph has a lineage that goes back thousands of years. Even though Jesus the son of Mary and God technically has no lineage from the context of the day, in our day the lineage would be that of Mary.
It may seem that at times I or we do not matter but I join the voices from millennia past to say in no uncertain terms that you matter. That truth may be an unexpected surprise. It makes no difference if you or others think you are great or not, you matter to God and the love God poured into Jesus is also poured into you, pressed down and overflowing. The people of Bethlehem had been told for hundreds of years that they were of no account, too small and insignificant to be of any value. And in time, they believed that to be so. When Micah says that the one to rule Israel, the Messiah was to be born from within your clan, they and everyone else just rolled their eyes in mock ‘yeah right’. In the fullness of time God’s response is…surprise.
From that skepticism Jesus was born, as an adult his teachings started a revolution in the understanding of God that continues today. To remind us of our extraordinary value and of his great love for us, and so we would know that in His eyes we are amazing, He invites us to share bread and drink that whenever we do this we are reminded of our worth and Jesus’ love.