Advent 4018 – “The House of Bread!” Micah 5:2-5

Advent 4018 – “The House of Bread!” Micah 5:2-5

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.  The text for our sermon meditation is taken from of, the Chapter:

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 origin is from of old, from ancient days.

3Therefore 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.

4And 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.

5And he shall be their peace.

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

How many small towns have greatness or notoriety associated with them? For some towns only the residents know they exist. How many people know where Homer, Michigan is? How about Henryville, IN? Brazil, IN? Let’s try Newburgh, IN, or Owensboro, KY, they might be a little more familiar. You may have a general idea of the location of these towns. You may even have an idea as to these town’s importance. In some cases as you approach the town there may be a commemorative sign on the main road to tell you who made the town great, or at least memorable.

Actor Johnny Depp is from Owensboro, KY, and actor Michael Rosenbaum is from Newburgh just over I-69. Col. Sanders, founder of KFC, is from Henryville, IN. Missing Teamsters Union President Jimmy Hoffa is from Brazil, IN. MLB pitcher Josh Collmenter, and Olympic medalist kayaker Greg Barton are from Homer, MI.

The prophet Micah speaks of Bethlehem, a small town in Israel from which God has ordained greatness.  We even sing a Christmas hymn that speaks to the greatness which flows from this small town.  This is also in keeping with the second part of the name given to Bethlehem, Ephrathah, which means fruitful.

“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 origin is from of old, from ancient days.”

The Lord ordained that an eternal king would arise from this small town.  By His gracious choice the Lord chose Bethlehem to be the birthplace of the Savior of the world.  Moreover, Bethlehem was to be the birthplace of God Himself.  God, who deigned to take on the form of a servant, is born into the world of sinners.  We will celebrate the anniversary of that birth is a few short hours.  God the Son becomes the servant of all to bring sinners into His eternal kingdom.  By God’s gracious choice we are called through the Gospel to be great among the people.  Our seeming insignificance is turned to great importance as the God who became a servant adopts us to be heirs of His eternal kingdom.

Paul writes in his first epistle to the Corinthian church:  “for the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”  These words reveal to us the very simplicity and power of God’s salvation.  God does the unthinkable when it comes to the salvation of mankind.  We tend to think of such action of God, the One who is worshiped becoming the one who serves, as being foolishness.  Yet, often the foolish seeming plans are the most effective plans and yield the greatest results.

Think of the people of whom we read in the pages of Holy Scripture.  Moses was a murderer whom God used to lead the Children of Israel out of captivity in Egypt.  Fisherman and uneducated men were chosen by God to be the founding fathers of the Church.  The carpenter’s son, whom everyone in Nazareth knew, came to redeem the world from sin and death.  The cross upon which Jesus died was the substitute for the gold covered Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant.  The death of One holy and innocent man gives life to innumerable sinners in all places at all times for now and eternity.  All of this divine foolishness reveals a wisdom far greater than sinful man could either hope or dream.

Look also at the genealogy of Jesus.  Certainly there are names of royalty and names of disrepute.  Abraham, David, Joseph, Boaz, all names of devout men of God.  Some having much good accredited to their names, but still there were moments of sinful weakness which marred their piety.  Among the women named were Bathsheba the adulteress and Rahab the prostitute who both lived in repentance.  What would the world see written next to your name?

Luke’s Gospel account names two seemingly insignificant women chosen to bear powerful children.  Elizabeth in her old age is to bear the messenger who will prepare the way for the Lord to come into His temple.  Mary a young unmarried woman, is chosen by God to bear the Savior of the world.  She will give birth to God.  Mary does not think this foolish of God but humbly rejoices in awe that God will work salvation in this manner.

It is little wonder then that God would choose this small town to bear much fruit.  It is little wonder then that God would be born in Bethlehem.  It is little wonder that even the name betrays the importance of the town Bethlehem.  For the name Bethlehem means the House of Bread.  The land around Bethlehem was fertile and productive.  Yet something greater is to take place.  The bread of heaven is to come to this town and feed many on the salvation of God.

Micah now speaks of a king who will arise from this Bethlehem.  It is a king never seen before.  It is a king whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.  These words have significant meaning for the Children of Israel.  What God is speaking through Micah is that God Himself will be that King. From of old and ancient of days is a direct reference to the eternal nature of God.  The God who is eternal and without genealogy, will be born into this world and have a genealogy.

This King will not be David reborn, but will be the Son of David and the Son of God.  He will rule in the style of David whom we know a the shepherd king.  Yet, he will be king in a manner that transcends the rule of David and transcends the rule of all other kings born into this world.  King David could not guarantee security for his people.  As long as he was king the land of Israel was in peace.  But in time David died and his rule went to another, his son Solomon, who in the end of his life turned from the security of God to the idols and worship of his wives.

We confess in the Nicene Creed these words concerning Jesus.  Consider again the words which profess our belief in the divinity of the Christ.  We confess of Jesus:

“the only begotten son of God, begotten of His Father before all generations, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man …”

These words of the Nicene Creed embody everything God speaks through Micah.  The security we need is eternal.  The shepherd we will receive will give us the security we need.  In the days ahead we will recount the gradual unfolding of God’s promises to send this Shepherd King.  We will find ourselves hearing of the uncommon place for His birth, and the uncommon work He will accomplish.

This Shepherd-King we know as Jesus, the Babe of Bethlehem.  He was born in the resting place of animals and his first bed was a manger.  There was no room in the guest quarters for this Shepherd-King.  His unlikely throne would be a roman cross.  His unlikely crown would be made not of gold but of thorns.  He would wear no royal robes, but would be stripped naked and paraded before his accusers in degradation and indignity.  He would make only one kingly and divine proclamation from His throne, the words being, “It is finished!”  then he would bow his head in death and give his spirit into the hands of His heavenly Father.  “It is finished,” Jesus will say, declaring eternal security for all people in the forgiveness of sins.

We come into the presence of our Shepherd-King in these hallowed walls.  Here in this place we recount the divine work which God accomplished through His only begotten Son.  Here in the place we receive the very body and blood of the Shepherd-King who died and rose again to establish God’s eternal security.  Here in this place the House of Bread becomes our reality and hope.

With Mary we confess the great things the Lord does for us and in us through His Word.  With Mary we are descendants of Abraham by faith in Jesus Christ.  With Mary we receive all the great things God does for His people.  With Mary we go to Bethlehem and worship our Shepherd-King and rejoice in His eternal salvation.  He tells us we are significant in His kingdom, and He works to bring us into that kingdom.

The King of Bethlehem, even Jesus Christ our Lord, fill you with penitence and faith, and grant you His continued presence and protection until he comes again in glory.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Amen.