Written some 700 years before the birth of Jesus, the Book of Micah records this prophetic statement for today’s advent verses:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.
Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be our peace
when the Assyrians invade our land
and march through our fortresses.
We will raise against them seven shepherds,
even eight commanders…”
– Micah 5:2-5
Seven hundred years. Entire continents were unknown to western civilization 700 years ago. It is incredible to consider the length of time between this prophecy of a coming Messiah and the actual arrival of Jesus, scrolls carried from priest to priest throughout the centuries, each generation anticipating a Savior.
Such a long time to wait. At least it feels that way when viewed through the lens of our lifespans. My children can’t wait for Christmas. They want a toy at the store now. But to wait a year, or two, or a decade, or a century for a promise that might not be delivered within our own lifetimes… how can anyone bear it?
In the grander scheme of things, 700 years is nothing. Using the most recent scientific measurements, astronomers figure the universe in all its enormity is about 13.77 billion years old. That’s 13,770,000,000 years. The gradual unfolding of creation to this point in time is impossible to fathom and makes 700 years pass in the blink of an eye.
That makes waiting six more days for Christmas quite a bit easier to bear, don’t you think, my children?
If you’ve felt overcome by the rush of the season, take a minute to watch this video.
Widening the lens from the immediate rush and demand on our time and resources beyond our own small sphere, beyond Earth, our solar system, our galaxy, beyond beyond beyond delivers a moment of speechlessness, awe, wonder, and mystery that sometimes feels missing in a season of debate over the ethnicity and existence of Santa, the “War on Christmas,” the ongoing and ever-present threat of darkness and evil appearing in the news. If our hearts ache and yearn for peace, beg, “How long, O Lord, how long?” how incredible is it that the God of this Universe in all of its sprawl and eternity delivers his peace and love on such an individual level as well?
To bring us back around to Micah’s prophecy, give a final listen to this old hymn, and consider these verses:
“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”