Service of Lessons & Carols

December 23, 2018

Micah 5:2-5a

O, little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!  Your very name sings to us of promise, of peace.  For we know it is from you that the one to save us will come.

Micah wrote not for our reading, but for the people of Israel – suffering in exile, wasting away in foreign lands, longing for a new ruler, one who would restore them.  All of the pain and anguish and alienation they endured would come to an end when this promised one appeared.  The promise “stretches back nearly three centuries to the covenant God made with David.  The promise is old.  But God does not break promises.  They may be [suspended] for a time, but God will fulfill them in ways even more wondrous than first imagined.”[1]  And you, O little town of Bethlehem, would deliver this promised one.

But we hear Micah’s words, too.  Like the people of Israel before us, we live in a time of great darkness.  “We are not [Micah’s] first audience, but our questions are not unlike those raised by his listeners.  Our need for a word of warning and glimmer of hope beyond the present ordeal is great.”[2]  We look at the word around us in bewilderment.  We don’t understand why a 6-month-old baby is left in a dumpster to die.  We don’t understand why hate-filled people are compelled to destroy those who are different or whom they don’t understand.  We don’t understand why fires destroy towns and families and lives.  We don’t understand where God is when all these things happen.

The present is a time of suffering, and it may get worse before it gets better, but we should not lose heart.  For God promises a new ruler who will be for God, one who will find “strength and authority in the Lord and not in his own power.”[3]  One of peace.

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.

John 1:1-14

And the Word became flesh and lived among us.

The true miracle of Advent, of advent past and advent present, is that the Word that existed before the sun and the stars were flung into the sky, before creatures swam or crawled or flew in this world, before human beings walked the land’s hills and valleys and breathed in its beauty – that very Word became flesh and lived among us.

That Word, which is light and life and grace and truth, became like us, that we might know the fullness of God.  That we might see the glory of God face to face.  Even now, this Word “offers those who are in the world the possibility of experiencing heaven on earth, the qualities of heaven while still in the world. … The Word incarnate in Jesus turns on the light in the world, so that [we] can see the negative quality of life in the world, in contrast to the positive quality of life in heaven.”[4]

The true miracle of advent future is that this same Word that has become present in the form of a little baby will be present in every day to come.  “By believing in Jesus, we can expectantly await the time that he will return and take [us] with him to heaven.”[5]

We have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

[1] Daniel J. Simundson, “Micah,” NIB Vol. V, 717

[2] Ibid., 719

[3] Ibid., 717

[4] Ronald J. Allen, Connections, Year C/Vol. 1, 108

[5] Ibid.


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