Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church

Go
TEEZing Out the RootsImage
in Advent

ADVENT: DAY 22

Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church - Outreach - Blogs - TEEZing Out The Roots

Now you are walled around with a wall; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the ruler of Israel upon the cheek.  But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule 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 labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel.  And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.  And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.”—Micah 5:1-5a

 

 

I will never forget Christmas in Kerala.  The reasons are too numerous to list here.  One that stands out, though, is hearing Binu, John Thomas, play on his guitar and sing They’ve Cancelled Christmas in Bethlehem.  It goes like this:

 

They’ve cancelled Christmas in Bethlehem

They’ve cancelled peace in Bethlehem

In a land once known as holy the gun is in control

They’ve cancelled Christmas in Bethlehem

 

They’ve cancelled freedom in Bethlehem

They’ve cancelled hope in Bethlehem

They’ve locked the little town behind a ghetto wall

They’ve cancelled Christmas in Bethlehem

 

Though angels are singing—they’re trapped behind the wall

Yet angels keep singing down in Beit Sahour

And if our Christmas songs and prayers are not to be in vain

We must pull down that prison wall that’s strangling Bethlehem.

 

The wall must fall!  The wall must fall!

If peace on earth is to come

The wall must fall!

 

They’ve cancelled wise men in Bethlehem

They’ve cancelled shepherds in Bethlehem

They’ve stopped the wise men at the checkpoint and the shepherds can’t leave home

They’re under curfew in Bethlehem

 

Though angels are singing—they’re trapped behind the wall

Yet angels keep singing down in Beit Sahour

And if our Christmas songs and prayers are not to be in vain

We must pull down that prison wall that’s strangling Bethlehem.

 

The wall must fall!  The wall must fall!

If peace on earth is to come

The wall must fall!

 

—Words and music by Garth Hewitt

 

 

The placement of Micah’s words in his prophecy are remarkable.  He writes about the people of Israel being trapped behind a wall and attacked behind that wall.  Then in the very next breath he prophecies that out of Bethlehem will come a leader who will be a shepherd feeding the flock, who will be great to the ends of earth, who will be the One of peace.  

 

The Israelites were being assaulted by mightier powers.  It seems that a wall had even been constructed to keep the people ‘in their place’ and out of the places that the powerful wanted.  From that very place behind the wall would come a savior, a messiah to lead the people, the One of peace.  I am becoming more and more convinced that prophecies are not one and done deals.  I think that God speaks through them to new generations and different contexts, that the words can validly carry meaning anew in various situations.  For, the hope shouted forth in this passage applies fully to Bethlehem today.  The most highly weaponized nation state in the Middle East has constructed a wall to separate the town of Bethlehem from the rest of Israel.  The Israeli government has enacted marshall law while occupying Palestinian land, with the full military and monetary backing of the United States.  If the person prophesied were to be born in Bethlehem today, the Messiah never would have made it to Jerusalem to live into that Passion we many of us believe to be the central salvific act.

 

Now, the Israeli nation state should never be thought of as the same as the Israel of old.  As with so many other nation states, it is a political entity built upon religio-cultural narratives that point towards divine origins.  The Jewish people can and should claim this heritage, as should the Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and Druze in the region.  The government and many of its supporters (including the U.S. government), though, have forgotten the legacy of ancient Israel—a people who were claimed by God, liberated from slavery, and sustained through the wilderness.  Though they had their own problems with unjust warrior kings, they were often the ones under siege and attack, exile and colonization.  Indeed, it was while being held under the mighty Roman Empire that Bethlehem saw Jesus being born to Mary.

 

As we approach the celebration of this birth, let us focus on the reality of a walled-in Bethlehem today.  Let us participate in action to bring down that wall and any wall that dispossesses the poor for the sake of the powerful.  The wall must fall!  The wall must fall!

Posted December 20, 2015

 

Being planted in the rich soils of Zambia to inspire regrowth at home. “Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit” -Matthew 13:8