“When (King Herod) had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written.” — Matthew 2:4
Wreath Directions: Light all three purple candles.
Read Aloud: Micah 5:2-5; Matthew 2:1-8
Suggested Carol: O Little Town of Bethlehem
The first week of Advent was a celebration of Jesus as the Light that came from God into a darkened world. For four hundred years the Israelites had waited for the Lord to speak to them and fulfill His promise to bring the messiah. Isaiah prophesied that a light would rise above Israel that would illumine a darkened world and draw the nations. He also prophesied that the Lord Himself would come and shepherd His people with gentleness and justice.
Now, the prophet Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, gave some specifics. There would be a place in which the messiah would rise. And that place was not were you’d expect. The Davidic king of Judah lived in Jerusalem. The Northern king of Israel lived in Samaria. Among the major cities of the divided kingdom were Hebron, Beersheba, Jericho and Megiddo. But this messianic place, the place of the light, was the ancient equivalent of Woodbine, Texas.
Ever heard of Woodbine? Exactly.
Woodbine is a small rural community in northern Texas, located off the beaten path and famous for very little. Seven miles to the west is Gainesville, a city of 15,000. Woodbine has fewer than 100 people. But from Bethlehem, the Woodbine of Judah, the messiah would come. Bethlehem was the birthplace of King David but it was still a small place — a few houses, maybe a barn, a few inns and, as we know, a stable or two. That’s it. It was just a stone’s throw away from Jerusalem but as rural as could be. Not exactly everyone’s first choice for a royal city, eh?
We are celebrating hope this week, and the very mention of a place name brought great hope for the people of Israel. Micah prophesied it and the people waited. But the prophecy came in 700 B.C. and the messiah 700 years later. A lot happens in 700 years and people forget.
So when Jesus was born, the people had forgotten. It took the pagan King Herod to cause even the scribes and Pharisees to remember Bethlehem. Jesus was hope for Israel and hope for the sinner. He still is hope for them. And His promise to come back should fill us all with hope. We wait in eager expectation, though all before us have died without seeing God fulfill His promise. Just like it was 2700 years ago.
Apostle Peter wrote that the Lord is not slow in keeping His promises. For Him, a thousand years are like one day (2 Peter 3:8-9). What He promises will come true in His perfect timing. So rest in that hope!
This week’s prayer is:
“Our Father in heaven, we light this candle to thank You for the hope of salvation that we have in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank You for His atoning blood, shed on the cross for our sins, and that through His resurrection we might have life in His name. We thank You for the hope found in His first coming and we grab hold of the hope of His return. It is in His holy name we pray. Amen.”