But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
3 Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labour has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
5 and he shall be the one of peace.
If the Assyrians come into our land
and tread upon our soil,*
we will raise against them seven shepherds
and eight installed as rulers. - Micah 5:2-5
Every now and then I'm amazed and amused by reading, hearing, or singing something I read, heard, or saying at some point in time in my life that I had forgotten. Today the first four lines of the reading began to sing themselves in my mind as I read them. It was a fragment of something I had sung at some at some point, but I could neither remember what, where, or even if there were more to the song than those four lines. Still, they have become my morning earworm.
Bethlehem is a big deal in the Christmas story. It is important for us to bring it up in Advent to prepare the scene, as it were. Actually there were two Bethlehems, so which one was the important one? One was far to the north, on the main trade route, with biblical significance. The one we consider as part of the Christmas story is Bethlehem or Bethlehem Ephrathah, a short way south of Jerusalem. Its importance began when Jacob buried his beloved Rachael there. Boaz met and married Ruth there, and their great-grandson, David was born there. David became a great king, and his reign was a golden one. While Micah was referring to David and the prophecy, that prophecy has been expanded to include the birth of Jesus.
The very small town of Bethlehem became of huge importance. It was a place where the Star of David and the Star of Bethlehem touched hands separated by centuries. It is still important, although now It is more often heard from as a battleground than a birthplace.
Size does not always dictate importance or power. Compared to the giant Goliath, David must have looked like a child, yet David did what armies had been unable to do. There is an old saying , it isn't the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. While this doesn't endorse dogfighting, it does bring up a point that size isn't always a determinant. David certainly had a lot of fight inside.
Our focus during this season and the coming Christmas season is on smallest of human beings, a child. Even in our contemporary society we say that Christmas is for children, and we do what we can to make sure our children and grandchildren, even great-grandchildren, have a season of wonder and joy and peace. Our charity extends to children of needy families, and so we pick names off Christmas tree and buy presents for a child we don't know but who would not know the joy of Christmas without gifts or even food. It makes us feel good and it does do good for the less fortunate.
It is often children who show adults just what is what. Malala Yousefzi wanted so much to learn and to enable other children, particularly girls, to learn as well. The shots to her head slowed her for a bit but didn't stop her. She continued her campaign for education and won a Nobel Prize the age of 16. Mattie Stepanek was a poet who published five books and was friends with presidents and celebrities befor3e his death at 14 from a form of muscular dystrophy. His poetry, which he called "Heartsongs," still touches those who read his words. There are many, many more children who are gifts to this world but who have never reached the prominence of Malala or Mattie. There are children who see life is good, and yet there are those whose eyes speak of the unspeakable we adults are so invested in or so accustomed to that we hardly pause when we hear of collateral damage and destruction.
The little child of Bethlehem was born in a time of uneasy peace and impending trouble. He and his parents are become refugees simply because he was a small child who threatened an empire simply by being born. Odd how one of the little can be of such importance. We still have tiny refugees, and sometimes it takes the picture of a small child's body lying in the surf of a beach to remind us that the children suffer for the sins of the adults.
Advent tells us to be awake, alert, aware, listening, and a spark of light to a world where darkness is not only a time of day. It's an encouragement to look at the small things and the small human beings in our world and to make that world a place worthy to honor the Prince of Peace by making its a new Eden for all human beings.
Size is much less important than intent. Make the intent count.