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.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel.
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; and he shall be the one of peace.
We forget things. This reading reminded me of something of which I shouldn’t have needed to be reminded. Judea and Israel were two separate nations.
So this: if a Judean King — an outsider — is to rule over Israel, Israel may not like it much. In fact, political unrest might be the rule of things. Politics might get divided and even hostile. We’ve forgotten how much the people of ancient times — the ones alluded to in this prophecy — had in common with our times, with us. In the midst of great, disruptive fractures, however, they had words of peace. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.
We forget things. We forget that we re supposed to be all about peace. We forget that we are supposed to speak of peace, and, especially, to work for peace. We just get busy living our lives, doing all the day-to-day things we hve to do. The present inhabits us; it fills us up. The future, or any kind of prophecy, doesn’t have a chance.
Prophecy never has much of a chance in our human world. Prophecy is a spiritual word, and our reality is just too practical, too raw. Our schedule don’t make room for it, and our hearts? Well, our hearts only have the room we make. We forget that prophecy exists to lead us; to surprise us for certain, but also to lead us on to something yet unseen. We forget that prophecy is not just for ancient times, it’s also for us.
We forget what is crucial for the sake of what is current. We forget.
We forget that we are as sheep, mixing about the pastures without much mind power, following whatever firm voice may come along. We are still drawn like sheep though. We are still herded. Every Christmas season we are herded to the malls, we are herded to Amazon and to every other dot.com, we are herded along through our busy schedules. But we forget.
We forget w have just one shepherd, just one voice to follow. And we forget that that one voice calls out to us above the din of political divisions and commercial messages. And that voice speaks “peace.”
And we’ve forgotten one more important thing. In a world where the cost of one new fighter jet would feed every homeless person in this land, we forget that we — we followers of the promised Christ — are supposed to be SECURE. Do we even remember what that means or what true security feels like? We forget.
Security is prophesied for us, but we have forgotten. Peace is prophesied for us, but we have become too busy to think about that. Overwhelming, awe-inspiring love is prophesied nd promised for us, but we accept a watered-down version of love; the human version, the best we (WE) know how to do.
We forget that there is an all=powerful, all-loving God to secure us and to give us peace and love.
That’s why Christmas comes every year — to remind us: Emmanuel, God is with us. And the politics and the day-to-day and the human shortcomings must all step aside before Him. For they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.