Devotional: December 23, 2020
But you, Bethlehem, David’s country, the runt of the litter— From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule Israel. He’ll be no upstart, no pretender. His family tree is ancient and distinguished. Meanwhile, Israel will be in foster homes until the birth pangs are over and the child is born, And the scattered brothers come back home to the family of Israel. He will stand tall in his shepherd-rule by God’s strength, centered in the majesty of God-Revealed. And the people will have a good and safe home, for the whole world will hold him in respect— Peacemaker of the world!
Micah 5: 2-4 The Message
One of our most beloved Christmas carols is “O Little Town of Bethlehem”. The title fits the village of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth: it was not a large town.
Yet the truth is that sometimes, our greatest leaders emerge from very inauspicious places. Abraham Lincoln was born in a place many of us have probably never heard of: Hodgenville, Kentucky. As one summary put it, “Abraham Lincoln was born into poverty in a log cabin, and was raised on the frontier, primarily in Indiana.” In spite of his humble roots, Abraham Lincoln is widely admired as one of our greatest Presidents.
Here in this passage, the prophet Micah emphasizes the startling truth that Bethlehem is to be the birthplace of the Messiah. For the residents of Bethlehem, lighting did strike twice, for the town is also the town of King David. “David’s country” as the Message translation puts it.
The one born in Bethlehem will rule as a “Shepherd-King”. In other words, the Messiah will not rule with an iron fist, but with love in His heart.
What’s more is that the Messiah’s rule will be characterized by Peace.
Jesus will be known as the “Peacemaker of the World.” Or the Prince of Peace, as He is called in some other translations, and places in the scriptures.
Micah wrote these words as the mighty Assyrians were breathing down the neck of Israel. If you read that whole fifth chapter of Micah, you will get a sense of how precarious any peace would have been.
Yet Jesus comes, bringing peace anyway. In our world today, peace is still precarious in many places, if it is to be found at all. There is conflict, espionage, computer hacking, and scary incidents between different navies in various parts of the world, like the South China Sea. There are so many areas of concern in our world! We all need something to look forward to: good news in which we might all rejoice. This, dear friends, is the celebration of Christ’s birth. No government or law can prevent us from taking a personal stand. We rejoice in the good news that the one to be born, in the little town of Bethlehem, will bring peace to the whole world. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
As I move ever closer to the day when I will celebrate the birth of Your Son Jesus Christ, may I prepare my heart to receive the greatest gift ever. Humble me. Remind me that there is nothing that can separate me from You. Help me to pass on the knowledge of the best Christmas gift ever, so that others will yearn to unwrap the gift that You have given so freely.
With a heart of preparation, I pray this prayer in Your Holy name. Amen