Blog / Book of the Month / "Too Little" Sermon / Micah 5:2-5 / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday December 23rd 2018: Season of Advent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

"Too Little" Sermon / Micah 5:2-5 / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday December 23rd 2018: Season of Advent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

"Too Little" Sermon / Micah 5:2-5 / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday December 23rd 2018: Season of Advent / Mount Olive Lutheran Church

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday December 23th 2018: Fourth Sunday in Advent / Micah 5:2-5 "Too Little"

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 origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labour 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. When the Assyrian comes into our land and treads in our palaces, then we will raise against him seven shepherds and eight princes of men;”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all are hearts be acceptable in Your sight O, Lord. Amen.

Grace, peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Good Christian friends. Too Little – Too Little: Many times you have heard how God works wonders with the smallest of things, with a virtual deficit of human resources, like using a shepherd boy to strike down a giant, yet somehow people have always expected God to do the “Big” thing immediately, on the double, without looking to the way in which God has repeatedly acted in the past. The more you know God the more you read Scripture, the Bible, the more you see that the nature of the Triune God, Father – Son – and Holy Spirit rather reveals Divine and unlimited power in redeeming the week, the few, the sinful, the downtrodden - to make of them something Holy, to bring something big from something small. Over and over again God makes something out of what seems like nothing, or what people consider to be nothing. In the Birth of His Son Jesus, God the Father takes that sleepy “little town of Bethlehem” and restores it to greatness. The result of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem fulfills a promise handed down by the prophet Micah, the promise that is the foundation of our message today.

At the local fair, in Stony Plain it was Farmers’ Days, in Edmonton it was Klondike Days, here in Regina it was Buffalo Days, now it’s The Queen City Exhibition, wherever you are if you have a local fair and it has amusement park rides there are always some rides that have height restrictions. There is usually a bright red line on a wooden stand next to the front of the line-up for the ride and if you are too short – too little – if you weren’t taller than that bright red line, it meant you’d have to wait until next year to try again while the older kids, the taller kids, all got to go on the ride. The carnie taking the tickets would size you up and he would say whether you were too little or not. For many of us this is one of the first times we are told by the outside world “you are too little”  

Often times people become discouraged when they hear those words, often times people start to tell these words to themselves even when no one else is saying them. We convince ourselves that there are things we just can’t do, that there are jobs that are too big and we are just plain too small. This is the opposite of biting off more than you can chew; this is more like pushing the whole plate away and not even taking a bite at all. The result of this kind of thinking is one in which people stop before they even start for fear of failure.

They say that hindsight is 20/20 and often we envision the great characters of the Bible as larger than life, heroic figures. But here are two examples of individuals who were ready to stop before they had even started.

When God told Moses to go back to Egypt to save the children of Israel, Moses at first refused because he thought no one would believe him and he refused a second time because he thought he wasn’t a good enough public speaker because he had a speech impediment.[1]

Jonah was told by God to go to murderous and violent Nineveh but he fled,[2] the reason for this became apparent latter when Jonah, fresh from the belly of the fish, does exactly what God asked him to do and preaches repentance to the people of Nineveh and then becomes angry.[3] It was the anger of Jonah that made him flee the command of God in the first place, because he knew that God would forgive the people if they repented of their sins and Jonah thought that they didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness. 

Everyone has some reason for not following the call of the Lord, and these reasons seem good to them at the time but as is illustrated in the examples of Moses and Jonah if God (who can see the end from the beginning and the beginning from the end) wants you to do something He will eventually have you do it – one way or another. The Lord can be very persuasive.

One last example from the Old Testament comes from Bethlehem. God wanted to show His might through a young shepherd boy named David. The Philistines had come against Israel and they had put forth their Champion, Goliath of Gath the giant, and King Saul the biggest and strongest man in all of Israel did not go out to meet Goliath in Battle. So God chose a small youth to meet Goliath the giant in battle. And King Saul just like the carnies at the fair with their height restrictions says to David the shepherd boy of Bethlehem you are too little to ride this ride.[4] But David the servant, disagreeing with King Saul and said,

“Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

David did not stay a little boy he became the king of Israel and the prophet Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah, knew this and through Micah God would send a promise that once again the sleepy “little town of Bethlehem” would surprise the people of Israel and from the midst of the least would rise up the greatest. Only this time it would not be a shepherd boy but would be the Good Shepherd, the Messiah, the Christ a better King then king David, into whose kingdom we have all been brought through our Baptism. 

“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 origin is from of old, from ancient days.”[5]

The little baby born in Bethlehem, this Jesus, how old is He? When Micah says that this new ruler’s origin would be “from of old, from ancient days” what does He mean? On Christmas Morning we will hear what it says in the Gospel of St. John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”[6] This small child was not of ordinary stock yet He embraced the ordinary and mundane out of love for you.

This is why we can say that there are two reasons why Jesus came to us as a baby: The ultimate and foremost reason, the most important of reasons for Jesus to take on human flesh was so that He could live the perfect life that we cannot live, so that He could resist temptation into sin as a man. Think of a time in which you gave in to temptation and sinned and now imagine that Jesus was likewise tempted in the same way but He said “no” and refused to give in. Yes, this “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, [was and] is at the same time both God and man. He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages; And He is man, born from the substance of His mother [the Virgin Mary] in this age: Perfect God and perfect man composed of a rational soul and human flesh.”[7] This is the first and most important reason that He could atone for your sin as a man who lived a life without sin in your place.

The second reason is to provide encouragement for us His people. Jesus did not arrive fully grown. He did not spring forth from some rock somewhere as a man. No the Holy Spirit in the virgin’s womb conceived Jesus and He grew up starting from a single egg, dividing and forming, a little fetus, vulnerable, protected by the Virgin Mary and Joseph His adoptive father in a harsh world. They didn’t have ultrasound back then, but if they did you would have seen His little heart beating, His little face eyes shut, His little hands grasping. 

Years later, fully grown as an adult Jesus said to His people, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”[8]

The second person of the Holy Trinity, who made heaven and earth with the Father and who is likewise omnipresent (being in all placeless at all times) made Himself so small as to be conceived in the virgin’s womb – smaller than a mustard seed. Just think there are those in our world today, just like the carnies at the fair with their height restrictions, who would say to the dividing cells of a fertilized egg, a baby in the womb, “you are too little to ride this ride,” “you are too small to be a human life.”

Jesus made Himself to be small in order to save us from our biggest problems: What does this mean for you today?

At first Moses and Jonah both assessed their situation and decided that, for their own reasons, they were not fit to do the work of God. We do this with our own lives; we do this with our church, with our families. As Moses stands trying to wiggle out of God’s plan for him, he certainly could not have imagined standing before the Red Sea, the children of Israel at his back, the waters parting before him. As Jonah fled from the command of God he did not see the belly of the great fish before him, he did not see that one day the Messiah would use him as an example to the scribes and Pharisees when Jesus said, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”[9]

Jesus does not save us like pennies found on the ground just to roll up in brown paper and put away in a vault. The salvation of Jesus, the redemption He has won for us on the cross makes us into something more than we can imagine. We see ourselves as too little, we see our church as too little. We say with Moses “I can’t do that” or our church says with the people of Bethlehem, “We are two little amongst our neighbours,” but Micah on God the Fathers behalf, says, “From you shall come forth for Me one who is to be ruler in Israel,” and as we preach Christ Jesus and Him crucified Jesus then goes forth into our community, into our families, into our very ears, into our hearts where the Holy Spirit has implanted faith. And What does Jesus say, “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”[10]

Because of our salvation in Christ Jesus we are no longer too small, we are no longer too little; when the carnies in our life point to the red line and say “you do not measure up” we can point to Christ Jesus and say “in Him I’m made strong, in Him I am no longer too little. He has plans for me and I will not be told that I am too little to accomplish them by His helping, if He wills it for me, for you, it will be done as He desires it.”

When you feel small, be not discouraged: Remember that Christ began His life small and helpless when He was miraculously conceived and born a man. And likewise remember that God often produces His “Big,” life changing life altering redemptions out of the smallest, out of those considered to be the least of His people. While God was not happy with the obstinate nature of Moses and Jonah their fear their anger, He did not withhold forgiveness from them. And He will not withhold forgiveness from you either, repent and be forgiven. To the World forgiveness seems such a small thing, yet for the one who receives it with a repentant heart there is nothing bigger.

As we sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” again this Christmas and we celebrate the coming of our Lord Emmanuel Jesus, and His miraculous conception and birth, remember that every hope and fear however small or large which dwells in your heart is met by Him and Jesus, in His cross and passion, has cast out your sins; Jesus has entered in to your world, into your life, your heart and He has made for you in His life, death and resurrection something vast and immeasurable an eternal life in Him. Yes, from a town in the shadows of greatness, a town long forgotten, from such a town, little Bethlehem, came the source of our redemption. From the death of one man all men can now live, and when Jesus brings you to the pearly gates of heaven there will be no one there to say “you are too little” in Jesus you are made to be big enough, tall enough in Him, to ride all that awaits you there. Amen.  

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] Exodus 4:10-17, “But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”
[2] Jonah 1:1-3, Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
[3] Jonah 4:1-4, But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Do you do well to be angry?”
[4] 1 Samuel 17:33, And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.”
[5] Micah 5:2
[6] John 1:1
[7] The Athanasian Creed.
[8] Mark 4:30-32
[9] Matthew 12:40
[10] Matthew 17:20