The Time is the 8th century before Christ’s birth. The place is Judah, which was commonly referred to as the Southern Kingdom. Assyria had arisen as a world military and political power. In fact, Assyria had successfully invaded the Northern Kingdom, Israel, destroying homes, families, villages and cities—taking the surviving people off into exile. From Israel, the Assyrian army moved southward, into Judah and executed several campaigns there. The Assyrians wanted to expand their empire right into Egypt.
The people of Judah were living under a dark, menacing cloud. The future looked bleak. As the war went on, more and more people were killed, homes and possessions destroyed, family relationships broken. The people of Judah, so they thought, were on the brink of destruction. In the midst of this situation, God sends a prophet named Micah. Micah criticized Judah’s moral and social decay. In his sermons, he railed against the worship of idols—warning the people of the tragic consequences of their apostasy. In addition to this, however, Micah promised that God still loved his people and offered them hope for the future.
It is this theme of God’s love and hope that we focus on now. In the midst of the people crying out in despair, “there is no hope, there is no tomorrow for Judah! We are lost and doomed!” Micah comes preaching a message of Good News—offering Judah God’s love, hope and deliverance.
Sitting on the ash heaps, covered with soot and smoke from the smouldering homes and burned dreams, Micah the prophet came sharing hope. He said, “From Bethlehem shall come forth a king who is to be the ruler of Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient of days.”
The people of Judah had seen many kings crowned and anointed, and all of them had become corrupt and had failed. 1
“So, will this new king of the future be any better? And besides, it might be too late for a king anyway—since it looks as if the Assyrians are going to destroy us. We’re doomed! What hope do we have against such a powerful enemy?” Such was the line of thought of many people in Judah.
But Micah is saying of this king: “And he shall stand and feed his flock, in the strength of the Lord, and they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.” He tells the people that they will go into exile for a time. However, he also tells them that the exiles—the remnant of Israel will return and join their other Israelite kindred back in the homeland.
Micah is saying, “Yes, we do have to face some dark and difficult times ahead of us. However, it is only a matter of time. There is still hope for us in the future and God’s love will prevail. No matter how grim our present situation looks don’t lose hope for the future; don’t forget that God still loves us.”
Micah is saying: “Even while you experience and face the greatest darkness, God is working to provide a better future for you and for your nation. God will send you a Deliverer. He will come from the least-expected place, from the tiny village of Bethlehem. He will seem like the least likely sort to rule over you. Yet, it is he who shall be the Shepherd and Messiah-King. You shall be given your freedom. He shall deliver you from your enemies, protect and feed you. He shall usher in his perfect kingdom, where everyone shall live in perfect peace and security. Keep your hope in him alive, don’t forget that he will act to demonstrate his great love for you.”
Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. “I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me.”
Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan, “Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare now efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make believe you love him. After you’ve convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt him.” With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, “Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!” And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting “as if.” For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing. When she didn’t return, Crane called. “Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?”
“Divorce?” she exclaimed. “Never! I discovered I really do love him.” Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds. 2
This, too, is a message we need to hear and take to heart. Even in our darkness or despair; our experiences of living in exile; of struggle to see hope for the future and God’s love in the present—we trust that God is working out a new and better future for us, and that his love will not let give us up. We may have to face the full consequences of our defeats and exiles—just as the people of Judah did in their day. Nonetheless, we are an Advent people. We are people of hope and love. In being touched by God’s love we can love others; in remembering God’s people of old, we trust that there is hope for us too. Just as Micah promised a coming king of Israel who would “be great to the ends of the earth;” so we, like the people of Judah, wait for this coming king, Jesus our Messiah.
One of the most beautiful stories in literature is the French classic, The Little Prince. There are 2 lines that have an Advent and Christmas message in them. The fox says to the Little Prince at one point, “If you come at four o’clock, I shall begin to be happy at three o’clock.” This is the story of Advent. That is also where the expression, “The Happy Hour” came from, not from 60 minutes in which to get intoxicated before dinner. It is the happy hour of waiting in hope and expectation (remembering God’s love for us and the world by sending us Jesus). 3
That is what Advent involves. Happily waiting for our Lord and Saviour, knowing that he is coming. This message of Advent hope and expectation; of God’s all-embracing love is for everyone. It doesn’t matter how old or young we are. It doesn’t matter what our situation is, God gives us hope and bids us rejoice this happy hour of Advent, as we expectantly wait for Jesus Christ coming to us and spread his love around to everyone we meet. Amen.
1 Cited from: James H. Bailey, The Happy Hour (Lima, OH: The C.S.S. Publg. Co., Inc., 1985), p. 30.
2 This story comes from J. Allan Petersen.
3 Cited from: James H. Bailey, The Happy Hour, p. 34.