It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Today is the Church’s celebration of Jesus’ birth, Emmanuel — God with us. For the last month, the season of Advent has encouraged and challenged us to contemplate what it means to wait, to trust God’s promises, to seek our Lord even in the midst of darkness and doubt. Now that Christmas is here, what do we do with all the concerns of homelessness, refugees, terminal illness, hunger, loneliness, and betrayal? How can we just drop them in favor of warm candlelight, ripped wrapping paper, and sticky cinnamon rolls?
Even though it is Christmas day, there are plenty of people still cold and hungry this morning, plenty still running from their homes, plenty still alone — in hospital beds or bars or even in a crowd. For those not in the Christmas spirit, Micah’s words ring especially true this morning: “in the days to come,” the prophet promises, people will stream to the Lord’s house, gathering on God’s mountain. There will be no loneliness, no illness, no refugees — all will belong, all will be loved, all will be truly seen and counted precious.
For all of us, the promise of Christmas is not yet fulfilled; Jesus will come again, and all will be set right. This twin promise of Advent finds truth this day when the presents are opened, the dinner is eaten, and the songs are sung — we still wait for something more. Our hearts are still restless till they rest in the God known through Jesus Christ. Even while we hope for his coming again, may the feast this day, of his first coming, give a taste of the full peace and joy to come. Perhaps this day we can live a bit in the future, borrowing from the peace and joy that will flood creation when our King comes to reign.
Micah 4:1-5, 5:2-4
In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised up above the hills.
Peoples shall stream to it,
2and many nations shall come and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
3He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;
4but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid;
for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.
5:1For all the peoples walk,
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God
for ever and ever.
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.
3Therefore 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.
4And 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.