Sermon Outline On Micah 5:2-5a
“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 gives birth
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 their peace.
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.
The words of this favorite Christmas carol, penned by Phillip Brooks, were first sung on December 27, 1868, three years after Brooks’ inspiring visit to Bethlehem. It was the Christmas of 1865 that Phillip Brooks was on a tour of the Holy Lands. He rode a horse the five or so miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Before dark the group visited a field outside of town described as the place where the angels came to the shepherds.
Brooks then attended the traditional Christmas Eve services in an ancient basilica built by Emperor Constantine in the early fourth century. It was a place called The Church of the Nativity. The five hour service started at ten o’clock on Christmas Eve and lasted until 3 o’clock Christmas morning. The service left an unforgettable impression on the 30 year old Rev. Brooks.
This Episcopal priest wrote in his diary, “I remember standing in the old church in Bethlehem, close to the spot where Jesus was born, when the whole church was ringing hour after hour with splendid hymns of praise to God, how again and again it seemed as if I could hear voices I knew well, telling each other of the Wonderful Night of the Savior’s birth.”
Just imagine. The prophecy found in Micah was fulfilled. Jesus, the one who would save his people was born in that small, small village. Emanuel, God with us, would leave a heavenly throne and enter into this earthly existence as a baby born in the humble surroundings of a stable in a tiny town called Bethlehem.
James Allan Francis expressed it well in a miniature book he called One Solitary Life.
There is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He had nothing to do with this world except the naked power of His divine manhood.
While still a young man, the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth while He was dying-and that was his coat. When he was dead He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone and today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of the column of progress.
I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that One Solitary Life.
That babe born in Bethlehem continues to affect the lives of you and me. Jesus continues to be the cornerstone of the Christian faith. His influence is still all powerful, ever encompassing. How can he continue to affect life on this earth?
Rev. Phillip Brooks put it this way:
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
Two thousand years ago, Jesus was born in a small place called Bethlehem. Today Jesus is born over and over in a small place called the human heart. “Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.” Jesus emerged from Bethlehem long ago. Jesus emerges from your heart and mine every time we love in his name.
There is a video tape of the teachings of Ray Vander Laan entitled “The True Christmas Story.” He focused on that little town of Bethlehem. We can learn from the tape that Herod the Great built a massive fortress-palace just 4 miles from Bethlehem. Herod was so obsessed with remaining king that he had two sons killed. It would be Herod who would have all the boys up to 2 years old murdered in an attempt to kill the one that the wisemen said was born king of the Jews. Herod was ruthless in his desire to keep his kingdom.
Vander Laan was standing in the ruins of the Herodium, Herod’s palace overlooking the birth place of the Prince of Peace, the savior of the world, God with us. Herod built his kingdom with violence and stones. The baby born below would build his kingdom with love and human hearts.
Herod died almost immediately after Jesus was born. All that he built would fall into ruins. His kingdom would come to an end.
Jesus would still be King 2000 years later. Jesus would begin a movement that would continue until the end of the earth. God chose the weak to transform the world. His kingdom would never end. Lives would be transformed. Hearts would be changed.
The following prayer was written by Father Mychal Judge, a Franciscan chaplain killed in New York City on September 11, 2001, while caring for survivors of the terrorist attack.
Lord, take me where you want me to go; let me meet who you want me to meet; tell me what you want me to say and keep me out of your way.
That night long, long ago in that little town of Bethlehem God came to earth. Jesus was born human and yet he was divine. While he was fully human, he was also fully divine. You and I were born human, yet when we live our lives as Father Judge prayed to live his life, then there is the divine in us. Bethlehem was a little town, but Jesus Christ came from there. The human heart is very small, but it is large enough for Jesus and the love that comes out of it is great.