The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

Micah 5:2 But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will come forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His times of coming forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” 3 Therefore He will give them up until the time When she who is in labor has given birth. Then the remainder of His kinsmen Will return to the sons of Israel. 4 And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the Lord, In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God. And they will remain, Because at that time He will be great To the ends of the earth. 5 This One will be our peace. (NASB)

“As for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah.” Bethlehem. We know it as a sleepy little town with an inn too crowded to host a carpenter and his very pregnant wife. We know it as the place that received the Son of God and the Son of Mary by way of His birth in a stable and laid in a manager.

By the time of Jesus birth, Bethlehem was what the Christmas carol you just sang it was. A little town. Scholars estimate the population of Bethlehem around the time of Jesus’s birth at about 300. By the time of Jesus’s birth, Bethlehem wasn’t of any real significance. Its history did not prove to be any more or less sinful, any more or less faithful than other ancient cities in Israel and Judah. Its fate rose and fell right along with Judah.

It does show up in the Old Testament a few times and pretty far apart in time. As you know, Bethlehem is known as the City of David because it was David’s hometown (1 Samuel 16:1; 17:12) and the place where he was anointed king (1 Samuel 16:4–13). The name Bethlehem means “House of Bread,” probably because it was near some good farm land that enabled the area to produce an abundance of food. Bethlehem is about five miles southwest of Jerusalem in the hill country of Judah. The climate is mild and rainfall is plentiful. Fertile fields, orchards, and vineyards surround the city.

Bethlehem is first mentioned in the Bible as the town nearest to where Jacob’s wife Rachel died and was buried (Genesis 35:19; 48:7). At that time it was a Canaanite settlement.

Later on Bethlehem was the home of a young Levite from the tribe of Judah who served as an idolatrous priest for a man named Micah in Ephraim (Judges 17:7–13). It was also the hometown of a concubine connected to Micah whose murder brought on the massacre of the people of Gibeah (Judges 19—20).

Naomi, her husband, and their two sons lived in Bethlehem before traveling to Moab during a famine (Ruth 1:1). It was to Bethlehem that Naomi returned after the deaths of her husband and sons, along with her daughter-in-law Ruth (Ruth 1:16–19, 22). To the east of Bethlehem lies the valley where Ruth worked the fields of Boaz (Ruth 2:4). Boaz and Ruth were married in Bethlehem, where they also had their son, Obed, who was the grandfather of King David (Ruth 4:13, 17). Caleb was a faithful Israelite and his family settled in Bethlehem, and his grandson Salma became known as “the father of Bethlehem” (1 Chronicles 2:51).

We are also told that two of David’s best soldiers came from Bethlehem and while David was hidding out in cave in Adullam and in direr need of water, three of his men broke through a Philistine garrison that occupied Bethlehem to bring David water from the well at the city’s gate (2 Samuel 23:13–17).

As the City of David, Bethlehem became a symbol of the king’s dynasty. Under Solomon and later Rehoboam, Bethlehem became strategically more important and was turned into a military fortress.

Then came the Babylonians and there went the fortress. The people of Bethlehem were sent into exile in Babylon with their fellow Hebrews and Bethlehem was left a shell of its former shelf. Around 538 b.c. Babylon released more than a hundred Hebrews to return to Bethlehem (Ezra 2:21; Nehemiah 7:26).

From that time till the birth of the Christ Child, Bethlehem was a small unremarkable town. As ancient cities go, Bethlehem did not have a particularly unique history, other than its relationship to king David. It fell and arose and fell and rose again and again as right along with Israel and Judah.

Yet, God in His wisdom and grace elected both David and Bethlehem to play essential roles in salvation history. While Nineveh and Babylon and Rome battled it out over the centuries for world domination—each in its own day thinking it was the master of all—God had pre-ordained that “the hopes and fears of all the years” would meet in Bethlehem in God ‘s and Mary’s Son.

Had we lived seven hundred years before the birth of Christ we could’ve known where the Christ would be born. It was right there in the prophet Micah. “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will come forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His times of coming forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” (v 2).

As important as it was to know the place of the Savior’s birth, Micah also tells the reason for His coming. “This One will be our peace. ” (v 5). In the prophets of old God gave us the who, what, where, and why of the matter. The “who” is the Son of God. The “what” is the birth. The “where” is Bethlehem. The “why” is peace . . . peace between God and man.

In the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God, peace was restored. Thousands of years before Micah, sin drove a wedge and opened a chasm between our Creator and us. Sin set us at war with God. A war in which we were sure to be killed, eternally.

The Baby born in Bethlehem was the only way to end the war and bring about true peace. “This One will be our peace. ” (v 5) Isaiah in 9:6 written about the same time said it too. “For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”

Thanks to God and the prophet Micah, the faithful and attentive few knew from where Christ would come: Bethlehem. When He had came, we knew that it was Him who had been promised, the Babe of Bethlehem.

The more important questions are (1) from where peace will come, (2) how will it be won, (3) Where can we find peace, (4) and what kind of peace will it be?

All four of those questions flow from this single fact, The Son of God came to be born of a faithful Jewish virgin named Mary in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. She was, like Bethlehem at the time unknown and unnoticed by those in power. Insignificant to the world both.

At the time most Jews had largely forgotten the prophecies of Micah. They expected the Savior of the world to be born in Jerusalem or at least in a notable house or kingdom. In the Old Testament the Lord God did not use powerful kingdoms like Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon as vessels through which the Prince of Peace would be born. He used such kingdoms sometimes to protect the Hebrew bloodline for the sake of the Messiah or to discipline His children for their unfaithfulness. But He always returned them home.

Instead when it came to the Messiah, the Lord God used the nomadic chosen people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were not a people who enjoyed peace in worldly matters. At the coming of Christ the Judah and Israel were in a remote corner of the Roman Empire. The relationship between the two was not marked by peace. Rome itself was marked by constant conflict over politics and power.

Jerusalem too clung to power, as much as it was allowed to under Roman rule. December 28th stands as a memorial to the fact. December 28th is the Festival of the Holy Innocents. This is the day that remembers what Herod “the Great” did to the little boys in Bethlehem in his efforts to retain power. Even the prince of peace’s life began in the midst of war. Some probably wondered at the time how peace could come from a beginning.

Horace, a Roman poet, said, “in a peaceful moment, the wise man prepares for war.” Horace puts his finger on the problem. War is the natural state of this fallen world. We won’t find peace in human nature or potential. Jesus Himself taught, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Mt 15:19).

The constant blaming of others or circumstances for the evil the predominates our cultures as the woke these days do so with unprecedented ignorance of spiritual truths and zeal that is dangerous. The claim that men and women can achieve peace, justice, equity, and righteousness in the hearts and institutions of men has proven false throughout all human history. Have you noticed the more “woke” our civic office holders and citizens become, the more disrespect, theft, robbery, murder, chaos, and the less peace there is?

Anthony Esolen is a writer, social commentator, and translator of classical poetry. He recently wrote, “Here is our situation, as I see it. We are called to bring the love of God to what has largely ceased to be a human culture. We preach not to the old idolaters who were seeking God but got him wrong. We preach to people who have sunk beneath idolatry; who have strangled liberty with liberty, acknowledging no laws but those they make themselves, . . . who have, as Solzhenitsyn’s peasant said, ‘forgotten God,’ and who have as a consequence forgotten man” (Anthony Esolen, “Fighting for Love,” Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity 34, no. 1 [2021]: 2–3).

Peace had to come from someone else. “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 coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. . . . And he shall be their peace” (vv 2, 5).

First notice the personification of the town of Bethlehem. “But you O Bethlehem Ephrathah.” God address the city as He would a person like you and me. You Bethlehem, you little Immanuel, you Christian, you who have known peace and war, violence and kindness, fidelity and infidelity, want and abundance, good times and bad shall have peace between God and you.

Bethlehem became host to the Prince of Peace on the night when Jesus was born. Immanuel becomes host to the Prince of Peace each and every time the Word is preached and the sacraments are administered in this place. And you, the Prince of Peace also took up residence in you. You’re your own “little Bethlehem.” John 14:19-20, 14:23, “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you…. If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

What great Love God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit had for Bethlehem and for us in sending His very Son to that little town, to be born to such an insignificant young girl into such a fallen and violent world! Born to die a violent death at the hands of his warmongering creatures that we might be redeemed.

As long as there is sin in this world, there will never be peace in the things pertaining to this world. But in Jesus, the Son of David, the Son of Mary, and the Son of God there is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. But as for you, you Christian, you have peace with God because our sins are forgiven.


May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Fourth Sunday of Advent, 2021 – As For You

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