Stream services online at www.sjlc.com/live

Behold, the Promise is Fulfilled

December 19, 2021 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Behold!

Topic: Biblical Verse: Micah 5:2–5:5a

The Fourth Sunday in Advent

December 19, 2021

Micah 5:2-5a

 “Behold, the Promise is Fulfilled”

 The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, occurs in just a few days on December 21. One of my favorite poems, “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” written by Robert Frost (1874-1963) nearly one hundred years ago in 1922 and published in 1923, evokes deep feelings of calm as well as obligation on the night of the winter solstice:

Whose woods these are I think I know.   

His house is in the village though;   

He will not see me stopping here   

To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

 

My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near   

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year.   

 

He gives his harness bells a shake   

To ask if there is some mistake.   

The only other sound’s the sweep   

Of easy wind and downy flake.   

 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert… | Poetry Foundation

“But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep” – that may be how many of us are feeling in these final days before Christmas. Lots of things on our to-do list that need to get done. This leads us into a promise made and a promise kept by the Lord to us, his beloved children. The promise made is what we hear about in today’s Old Testament lesson (Micah 5:2-5a) and the promise kept is what we hear about in the Gospel lesson (Luke 1:39-56). All of this centers in Jesus our Advent Savior and that becomes the theme for preaching: “Behold, the Promise is Fulfilled.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.

While that word, “behold,” is not specifically used in the words from the prophet Micah, there is much here that should make us sit up and take notice. We learn here that not only does God keep his promises, but he does so in amazing and unexpected ways. Bethlehem was just a small village with nothing remarkable about it at all. Nothing significant or noteworthy about the clans, or tribes, of Judah who lived in this area around Bethlehem called Ephrathah. The only claim to fame was that Bethlehem was the birthplace of David, king of Israel (see 1 Samuel 16). David was just a shepherd boy when God called him from shepherding sheep to shepherding God’s people as their ruler. Still, there wasn’t much about Bethlehem or its surrounding area that would attract attention. And yet, here in this out-of-the-way place is where God promises that “from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days”
(Micah 5:2b). This promised One goes back much farther than David, or even to Adam and Eve (see Genesis 3:15), who were promised that woman’s offspring would crush the head of the serpent, the devil, who had led them into sin and disobedience. This promised One would be God himself; the Son of God who came in humility, “born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law” (Galatians 4:4-5). This is the One Mary and Elizabeth are rejoicing over in today’s Gospel lesson; that unborn Child in Mary’s womb who is the Great Fulfiller of all God’s promises (2 Corinthians 1:20). This is Jesus, whose birth in humble, out-of-the-way Bethlehem, would accomplish God’s great plan of salvation to rescue and redeem us all from sin and death.

God does things differently than we would do. We probably wouldn’t have chosen Bethlehem as the place for God’s Son to be born. We probably wouldn’t have chosen a young peasant girl to be the mother of God’s Son, either. But God knows what he’s doing, and God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). It is through all of these things that God chooses to work his gracious and saving will. God chooses to work through the humiliation of his own Son’s suffering and death upon the cross so that we would be lifted up (Philippians 2:5-11). God chooses to work through the foolishness of the Gospel to exalt those who are weak, insignificant, and sinful (1 Corinthians 1:18-29), and that is each and every one of us. This is the amazing upside-down kingdom of God that centers in the promise made and the promise fulfilled in Jesus. He is both David’s Son and David’s Lord (Matthew 22:41-46). Like David, that shepherd king of old who was born in Bethlehem, Jesus our Shepherd King, also was born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem, which means “house of bread,” points us to our Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for us and for our salvation (John 10:14). Our Good Shepherd is that Living Bread who has come down from heaven to give life to the world (John 6). He comes to us this day in his holy Supper to give us his true Body and true Blood under forms of bread and wine that we might know and rejoice in the truth that he is the fulfillment of all God’s promises.

We can all identify with Robert Frost’s poem, of having “promises to keep” and “miles to go before I sleep.” Try as we might, the promises we make in our own lives are not always kept in our relationship with God or in our relationships with others. Our lives are littered with broken promises. And yet, despite our failures and shortcomings, there is this gracious word from the Lord through Micah for each one of us today: “And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace” (Micah 5:4b-5a). That security, that saving peace, comes from Jesus. In him, behold, the promise is fulfilled!  Amen.

More in Behold!

January 2, 2022

Behold, the Light

December 26, 2021

Behold, the Firstborn

December 25, 2021

Behold, Beautiful Feet