"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."
(Micah 5:2-5a NRSV)
Bethlehem might be the most well-known small town in the world. Today, Bethlehem has just 75,293 people, which is smaller than Allen. WF Albright, a prominent archaeologist, estimated a population of 300 people for the time Jesus was born, and all credible estimations are well under 1,000.
Granted it's only 5.5 miles south of Jerusalem, but we don't often talk about small towns in terms of importance, innovation, or prosperity. When's the last time Abbot or Amargosa, TX came out of your mouth?
(Fun Fact: the CEO/President of ZOE actually does live in Abbot :) )
Bethlehem, which translates to "the house of bread," was known in Jerusalem for providing grain, wheat, and making bread to distribute, but wasn't much of a political powerhouse. So for Micah to proclaim the importance of such an insignificant town...ludicrous.
Although...there had been that one kid: David. The youngest of his brothers, a lowly shepherd who'd made it all the way to an iconic King status by which every future ruler would be measured, and the standard of messianic expectations. He'd done okay for himself, but even Little Elm can produce a Cole Beasley once in a lifetime. It's not enough to take Micah seriously that someone so promising and powerful could ever come from a backwater, little, insignificant town like Bethlehem.
Following in the lineage of David, a seemingly insignificant child is born in a seemingly insignificant stable, because a few extra hundred people had poured in for the census, and Joseph's high school buddies didn't have any extra room. Because who comes back to Bethlehem? Nothing exciting happens in Bethlehem.
And then Christmas happened. Now everyone knows where Bethlehem is.
What we wait for during Advent and celebrate at Christmas-time is how God reverses the fortune of the weak, the meek, and the mild. How God works in the smallest and weakest amongst us to show the world His great power, and draw us into a place of deeper peace with each other and within ourselves.
In 2017, in big and small towns alike, there's plenty of struggles over importance and power. In big and small people alike, there are plenty of internal struggles over importance and anxiety. Big and small alike are recognizing that before the powers of life and the powers of God...we're all small.
But it's in the small that God works best. Paul says his weaknesses are where God makes him strong, and I wonder if this Christmas you won't hold your candle up with faith that in your struggles, your doubts, or any desperation or anxiety, you might have renewed faith that God will make Himself visible through how He helps you overcome them.
And, oh by the way...the solution...the answer...the great fortune...is probably going to come in something small. Don't miss it.