But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah
who are little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler 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 travail has brought forth,
then the rest of his brethren 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 dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And this shall be peace.
Throughout the book of Micah, the prophet tries unceasingly to convince Israel and Judah to behave according to the word of God. He lists the evils that consume them – the greed of the rich who drive widows from their homes and steal children’s rights; the leaders who bribe and take bribes; the worship of false idols; the use of extortion and fraud for unfair gain; the lying and the violence that fill their lives. Because of these behaviors, he announces that they will suffer and be enslaved by their enemies until God decides once again to forgive them and to bring those who remain, back to their true home. God will send them a new leader to be born in Bethlehem, “And this shall be peace.”
Much of Micah sounds eerily like today’s news – greed, fraud, lying, war and violence – and we are still waiting for peace in all parts of the world. This desire for peace is certainly not new. The Bible speaks of it often. In Ecclesiastes “ there is a time for war and a time for peace.” Psalms tells us “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” Isaiah promises us that a child will be born who will be “The Prince of Peace.” And Matthew tells us, “blessed are the peacemakers.” But the world we inhabit now, is anything but peaceful. History tells us that both war and violence have filled the 2000 years since Jesus came to us. So how are we to understand Micah, and his promise of peace?
I have to believe that although Christ was the promise of peace, only we can really make it happen. With Christ acting through us, we can work for peace at the world level, in our communities and families, and, most important of all, within ourselves. Thomas Merton says that, “We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves.“ Every year as we prepare for Christmas, we are reminded again of the promise of peace when we listen to the beautiful music of the season and hear the familiar words from the Bible. It is our opportunity to take a deep breath and feel the fresh promise of a newborn child and to renew the hope that maybe this will be the year that we will all see, “Peace on earth, good will to men.”
God, thank you for the promise of peace that Christ brings to us. Help us to feel Your peace in our hearts and to work for Your peace in our world.
–may the Spirit move through the words of Joan Black