Advent Devotional: Where Are You From?

Micah 5:2-4 (ESV) – But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd 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 he shall be their peace.

How much does the place we come from affect how we are viewed by others and ourselves?

I was born in Lubbock, Texas. However, you will never hear me claim to be from there. When I was two months old my family moved back to New York where I lived until I was eight. I will always claim to be a New Yorker even though my birth certificate clearly states Lubbock as my birth place. Why do I besmirch my place of birth? There’s nothing wrong with Texas and I don’t want anyone reading this to be offended.  Lubbock is just too small a place to live after you’ve lived in as many big towns and cities as I have. When I moved back to Texas in my late 20s I was shocked at the pride Texans hold for their state. They even sold tortilla chips at H-E-B (the grocery store) that were shaped like their state. My personality, however, is more New York than Texas. I didn’t quite fit in with the people there. And Lubbock itself, though a great place to visit, isn’t exactly the Garden of Eden. Mac Davis, himself a Lubbock native, even wrote a song called “Happiness is Lubbock in the Rearview Mirror”. I have no memories of living there as a newborn. However, my family often pointed out that I was the only one of the six siblings who wasn’t born a New Yorker. In an attempt to make me feel better, my parents would often tell me how Buddy Holly was from Lubbock – but I was quick to point out that he got out as soon as he could.

So what does this have to do with Micah or with Advent? Micah prophesied roughly 750 years before Christ that God’s promised Messiah would come from a small town in Judah called Bethlehem. This little village was famous for one thing – it was where King David had come from. Bethlehem was where David watched over his father’s sheep. However, like Buddy Holly – he got out as soon as he had the opportunity. Like Lubbock, Bethlehem was a good place to be from, but not always a great place to stay. It had a reputation as a “hick” town that didn’t have much to offer those who lived in places like Jerusalem or Shiloh or even fishing towns like Capernaum. In other words, most of Israel didn’t think of Bethlehem as anything special. So this prophetic message from Micah must have been shocking to the people of Israel.  God through Micah announces that the Prophet/King they had been waiting for since way back in Deuteronomy 18 was not going to be from the learned, cosmopolitan or sacred cities of Judah, but from a rural sheep town in the middle of nowhere. But if you know God, its not really shocking at all.

Throughout Israel’s history God had used the least to show that he is the greatest. Joseph, the eleventh of twelve sons from a small farm in Canaan became second in command to Pharaoh the leader of the known world and was able to save his whole family from famine. Israel itself was not a strong or amazing group of people – but God called them to be his anyway. And David himself: the youngest of eight sons was overlooked by his own father when Samuel came to his house looking for the next anointed king of Israel – but God chose the one no one would have thought about.

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians that God does this throughout the story of the Bible to show that He is the real power behind it all.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV) Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in Lord.”

We should not be surprised that God choses the smallest village in Israel to be the starting point of His Kingdom. As we study the advent (the waiting) of God’s coming into the world this season, don’t be surprised that He does things we do not expect. Try to put away your modern preconceived ideas as you study His Word. Try to see the shocking truths that we often miss in our readings – that God uses the small and mundane things we often think are unimportant to shine a light into the world and to ultimately bring Glory to Him.

Today ponder this: No matter where you come from, in spite of what other think of you, regardless of what you think of yourself, God can use you. Place your life in His hands and He will shine through it and He will be glorified. Boast in His amazing ability to use the broken, the weak and the least to do the greatest things for His Kingdom. As you wait patiently for the Peace and Hope that God brings through Christ, remember that it is often in the little things in our lives – don’t miss them.

You are loved!

David