Micah 5:2-5a Canticle 18
Hebrews 10:5-10 Luke 1:39-45
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We are getting close to the Incarnation, the Nativity, the Birth of Christ, Christmas. Micah the prophet and writer of the first reading must have had a similar excitement as we do in this season. And he does more than anyone to pin-point where Jesus’ Birth will occur – Bethlehem. And true to his words, of the greatest coming from the least, Jesus was from a small clan of the tribe of Judah, from an ordinary young woman, and born in an otherwise unremarkable little town. From His birth He learnt how the ‘least’ felt and how to be one of them, He was and is, one of them, one of us. This history evolved into His teaching that the greatest must be the servant of all.
What was Micah expecting from the event ? His first expectation was for a ruler of his people and not one who seizes power but one who is entitled to rule because of His lineage and heritage. Now for me that is dangerous territory. It seems to hark back to the ‘divine right of kings’, a deplorable class system and privilege for those fortunately born, born usually into power-hungry degenerate dominant families. History is littered with them, tin-pot rulers whose unsavoury deeds have shaped the unfortunate plight many peoples struggle to survive in today. Monarchies are disappearing but governments and their leaders in less fortunate countries have just taken over their place to no advantage to the man and woman on the street. Those governments too will disappear and we will echo David’s words “O how the mighty have fallen” (2 Samuel 1:19) when they do.
Micah’s hope is not based on such human entitlement, where, because of our limitations and imperfections we are doomed if we try to govern ourselves, but his hopes were pinned on a ruler who finds His right to rule from the Ancient of Days, that is God himself, the real Divine Right of a King. Such a ruler would be at once powerful and benevolent. We could use that here in Canada and Ontario and in every other country today. That powerful benevolent ruler can only be one person and that is why Micah was so excited and why we are too, it’s not the glitter about Christmas it’s the Promise of Christmas, Jesus, that excites us.
Micah prophesies that all refugees dislodged by the conflicts caused by illegitimate rulers will return to their homelands and that famines and hardships caused by war will cease. Peace will reign as the Prince of Peace takes His throne. But He will be more than that as it says in the Letter to the Hebrews He will have the body of a servant. So Jesus is not just a powerful benevolent ruler, which would be enough, He is also the One who will help us achieve our full citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven. We will not be subjects, that is, subject to the whims of an all powerful ruler but the objects and beneficiaries of Love. That’s Christmas in a nutshell.
Micah foretold and John the Baptist was the forerunner, and when Jesus entered the room in His mother’s womb, John in his mother’s womb, leapt for Joy. As an adult using his own voice John at Jesus’ baptism would say “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the Sin of the world” (John 1:29). So now we the beneficiaries of Love are declared free of Sin also, that in anyone’s books is a great and welcome diagnosis. The presents we receive at Christmas keep piling up !
Jesus through His Nativity made another huge change, no longer would sacrifices be required to negate our sins. For thousands of years the Israelites had been making sacrifices to God, a hangover from pagan religions, but from His Incarnation onward sacrifices would no longer be necessary, if they ever were. Jesus would eliminate sacrifices because of His Servanthood. By being our benevolent ruler, just because of His benevolence, sacrifices would be meaningless. If someone has done you a harm or owes you something, other than honour, if you forgive or cancel the debt you are being benevolent. What do you need other than genuine thanks and a change of heart ?
We receive all these gifts at Christmas we are full of joy at the prospect of the good changes in our lives. We therefore give thanks for the Birth of Jesus the Christ, but let’s not confine it to Christmas let’s make it a year round thanksgiving, as it should be. Amen and Alleluia !