The following reflection is drawn from a message entitled, “One Little Town” based on Micah 5.2-5a first delivered on December 18, 1994 at Cochranton Presbyterian in Pennsylvania, USA.
Great movements begin in small places. On the outskirts of the village Bethlehem a young boy David is tending his sheep. He thinks of his brothers, soldiers for the King. He imagines himself a soldier, places a smooth stone in his sling and heaves it toward a distant tree. Wham! Direct hit. Lost in his dreams, his sheep begin to wander, which pulls him back to the moment. With his staff, he gently guides his sheep back on their path.
Guiding his sheep along, David had time to think. He thought of the stories he’d learned from his mother. Stories of his people, Israel. How God had delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Stories of Moses-an unlikely leader, who stuttered when he spoke. This Moses spoke against the Pharaoh and when Pharaoh refused to budge, Moses led God’s people across the Red Sea, through the barren desert, into the Promised Land.
David composed songs, celebrating the goodness of God. God’s power, justice and mercy. At night he would take out his harp and sing across the open fields, with the stars as his light celebrating the glory of God in the midst of God’s wondrous creation.
There was nothing exceptional about David. He was a young boy from a small village 5 miles west of Jerusalem. To choose a leader, you would think God would look in the temple in Jerusalem, at the scholars or maybe on the front lines-those waging war against the Philistines. You would think God would choose the wisest, the smartest, the one everyone would look at and say, “Wow! Now there is someone I can respect.” Instead, God chooses David, a young shepherd boy from the village of Bethlehem.
It is years later. The Kingdom David ruled has become divided. The people Israel are in exile, living under foreign rule, struggling to maintain their community, their faith. The prophet Micah speaks a hopeful word:
“You, O Bethlehem, one of the little clans of Judah.”
From you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel. “He shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord.”
What a vision! A righteous leader-God’s chosen one, born in Bethlehem-the city of David. A great leader who empowers the people in the strengths of the Lord. Again, it is the village of Bethlehem, not the great city of Jerusalem, which becomes the birth sight of God’s chosen leader. God’s glory is to be found in a little village, a small town.
Great movements begin in small places. God often chooses what the world deems insignificant. God works through people overlooked by society to accomplish great things, to bring glory to God.
As Joseph and Mary set out for Bethlehem, they didn’t know what to expect. Their child would be born any moment. They had no place to stay. All they knew was that they had to go. They prayed and trusted that God would provide, just as God had throughout their relationship, keeping them together through difficult circumstances.
To Joseph and Mary, a child is born-in a manger feeding trough, in someone’s barn.
Big things begin in small ways. We are often tempted by the illusion that bigger is better. Go for a bigger paycheck, move to a bigger city and buy a bigger car, a bigger house, a bigger computer, a bigger stereo system. Some people find great pleasure and satisfaction in obtaining bigger and better things. Others struggle with the frustration of wanting things they can’t have. People in Central America watch those wealthy Americans on their TV screens and wonder-how can I get what they have. Poor people in large cities are bombarded by large billboards that show beautiful people having such a great time smoking cigarettes, drinking Jim Beam or Colt 45 beer.
Some people give into the temptation-trade in their food stamps for lottery tickets and pray to the God of fortune, only to be left with even less to live on.
God shows us that great things happen in small places. When an older woman crochets a lap robe as a gift to a stranger or friend, there is God. When a group of young people visit a nursing home to sing Christmas carols, there is God. When a group of boys and girls gather each Tuesday night, pretend to be animals and shepherds and sing about a special child born in a manger, there is God. When a Sunday School class visits home bound and nursing home residents and offers them the gift of their presence, there is God. When you spend time with someone, with anyone, talking about God’s love sharing that love in what you do, there is God. When you pray for someone you may not know, you may not understand, or you may not even like- there is God.