Scripture Text: Micah 5:2-5a (Advent 4C)
2But 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; 5and he shall be the one of peace.
The time in which Micah prophesied was a time of great turmoil and violence. The Assyrians had already invaded the region, had captured Samaria (capital of the northern kingdom), and had attacked several towns in Judah. Corruption was at its height among the rulers and the people were reaching a point of despair. Their expectations more than likely would have been for God to send a great warrior, a ruler who would quash the growing threat and instill a sense of safety for all against their enemies. But, instead, the prophet promises a ruler who will bring peace.
Yeah, I know…we all went there. But keep in mind that the original prophecy and the current-day Jewish interpretation does not associate this promise with the coming of Jesus. The Old Testament should stand within the context in which it was written. This was the promise of a king that would bring a time of peace against the Assyrians and for the time thereafter. But for the Gospel writers, this understanding was illumined through Jesus Christ. Know that neither is the “right way” or the “wrong way” to understand it. Either way, God offers hope and promise of new life.
So, who is this “one of peace”? I mean, as near as I can tell, the world has never experienced peace. For as long as history has been written, the earth has rocked on its axis with threats or acts of war and violence and intentional ways to divide us. Rulers came and went. Jesus was born. Great theologians and spiritual thinkers have written of the peaceful time to come. And peace still seems to be elusive for us. Could it be that the promise of peace is elusive because we’re waiting for someone else to do something? Jesus did not bring peace as if it could be manifest with some sort of magic earthly pill. Instead, Jesus showed us a different Way, a radical Way, the Way of Peace. Jesus did not bring peace; Jesus brought the love of peace. What Jesus showed us was indeed radical. It was a different Way than the one to which the world was and is accustomed. This Way of Peace is not merely an absence of war. It has to do with so much more, a pervasive and radical re-imagining of the way we live in this world.
Peace cannot be until we respect one another, whether or not we agree. Peace cannot be until we honor one another’s life, until food and housing and safety is available for all. Peace cannot be until we realize that this earth in which we live, all of its creatures, all of its resources, and all of its beauty are entrusted to us not for our consumption but for our care. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” The “one of peace” has indeed come but peace itself is up to us as children of God. Each of us has a part. Our journey toward the Light is a Way of Peace.
Peace does not come rolling in on the wheels of inevitability. We can’t just wish for peace. We have to will it, fight for it, suffer for it, demand it from our governments as if peace were God’s most cherished hope for humanity, as indeed it is. (William Sloan Coffin)
Grace and Peace,