Sermon – Advent 4 – December 23, 2018
Micah 5:2-5a ‘Christstollen’
CT: Christmas is God’s recipe to provide for us our ‘daily bread.’ The peace of God is living under His care, where He richly and daily provides for all our needs.
Intro: Christmas baking is everywhere and almost impossible to avoid; melt in your mouth shortbread, pecan crescents, mince meat tarts, Mary’s poppy seed loaf…how about crepes with berry sauce and whipped cream! Behind all these goodies that delight the taste buds is God’s promise of a greater meal; God’s provision that goes beyond anything we could expect or deserve. We bring nothing to the table and yet God, in His mercy, reaches into our world, into our lives and He feeds us with Christstollen (Christmas bread); the Bread of Bethlehem. Bethlehem, as its name means; ‘House of Bread’!
Lack of Bread: Micah spoke to God’s people at a time when there was a great need of both physical and spiritual bread. Jerusalem was besieged, Israel’s leaders in the north were shamed and exiled, and families were split and dispersed, despairing of life, hungry for even a morsel of bread. Hunger and despair are all around us too, though not arising out of the same kind of circumstances. Christmas seems to bring the plight of the needy to the forefront; the need for both physical and spiritual bread. And it coincides with a willingness to give that surpasses all other times of the year, and even higher church attendance. It’s a time for the Christmas Cheer board, and of extra gifts to the Food Bank. Cancer and illness still threatens lives, and the families of victims of mass shootings across North America are not consoled. Lack of forgiveness still keeps families apart, children are pulled between parents, and even the unity of the best church family is shaken.
House of Bread: For a people longing for peace and wholeness of family and nation, Micah proclaims the Good News of the Christ; Bread from the House of Bread; a leader bringing God’s peace from the most unlikely of places; out of nowhere: “O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah.”
It’s a little place that is familiar with sorrow, famine, and anguish. It’s where Jacob buried Rachel who died giving birth to Benjamin. It’s a place where the horror of war, slavery, and exile in Jeremiah’s day are only overshadowed by Herod’s murder of children after Jesus’ birth. “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” God’s choice of Bethlehem is significant and comforting. He did not send His Son to avoid the bitterness, sorrow, tragedy, or intense personal suffering of our world, but rather He placed Him in the midst of it.
But this House of Bread is also where Naomi’s bitterness was turned to joy, when Boaz redeemed her and Ruth from all their debts as kinsmen, and married Ruth. A Moabite widow is King David’s grandmother. A small shepherd boy is raised up to unify God’s people and write many of the Psalms we cherish: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Indeed Jesus, born of this House of Bread came to redeem us and to call us kin—family; He came to be that promised Shepherd, the one King David called both Lord and son, the Prince of peace.
The Bread: Jesus fulfilled the promise of the House of Bread to be a Shepherd who will lead God’s people with divine authority and peace; not like David with the blood of battle on his hands, but by shedding His own blood for us on a cross. Shalom, true peace is the life of God’s people; it is our lives under God’s care. The Hebrew word for peace, Shalom, means so much more than a lack of turmoil; it means wholeness, and you are complete in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd,” who willingly lay down His life for the sheep—for you.
Providing bread for our bellies is the easy part; something God does for us every day whether we give Him thanks or not. He fed the 5M and all were satisfied—and there were 12 baskets of leftovers. Isn’t that often the best part of a Christmas dinner; the leftovers? But our Good Shepherd reaches beyond our bellies to the hard part, it’s impossible for us to conceive of such care; He touches the very depths of your souls. He declares: “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
His Table: Jesus sets a Table before us often in this place, in the presence of our enemies, and because of the strength of our enemies He offers us the Bread of Life. He gave His own body into death and stood between you and all that would condemn you and kill you to God eternally. He gave his life when you had nothing to offer, nothing to bring, and then gives His Body for you to eat for your salvation. Jesus embodies, offers, and is our (Shalom, Ganzheitlich) Peace of God which is part of our ‘daily bread’ and the goal of God’s endeavors with us here and in eternity. He blesses you with His peace in the midst of all the calamity, joy, and confusion of our world. Fed at His Table with the Bread of His Life, you go in peace and with great joy for your sins are forgiven†.
Bake Exchange: Max Lucado told a story about a Christmas bake exchange at his church; you bring 12 trays of one kind of baking and leave with 12 varieties. But in order to attend he needed some baking to exchange. Store bought was not an option; it was to be your best—your specialty. The problem was that Max was not known for his baking skills—preaching and writing—maybe, but not baking. The day came quickly. Could he go in empty handed, say a quiet prayer, and bow out gracefully? Maybe a medical emergency or family crisis would arise and bail him out! Then out of nowhere an elderly lady placed a box of her best homemade baking—12 trays in all—on his desk and said, “Merry Christmas!” When it comes to our knowing the depth of God’s love for us, being able to believe He sent His Son for me, living by grace in the riches of God’s forgiveness, and clinging to the promise of eternal life; it all comes as a gift—undeserved, unsolicited, but graciously given that we might participate in the kingdom of God every day of our lives to all eternity.
God’s Christmas baking, Christstollen, is served up for you so that you need never hunger again for want of God’s love, or ever question His gracious intentions toward you. As you dine richly this Christmas let every tasty morsel you enjoy remind you of the Bread from Bethlehem; He is your peace.