Marshal your troops now, city of troops, for a siege is laid against us.
They will strike Israel’s ruleron the cheek with a rod.
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.
He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be our peace when the Assyrians invade our land and march through our fortresses.
We will raise against them seven shepherds, even eight commanders,
who will rule the land of Assyria with the sword, the land of Nimrod with drawn sword.
He will deliver us from the Assyrians when they invade our land and march across our borders.
The remnant of Jacob will be in the midst of many peoples like dew from the Lord,
like showers on the grass, which do not wait for anyone or depend on man.
The remnant of Jacob will be among the nations, in the midst of many peoples,
like a lion among the beasts of the forest, like a young lion among flocks of sheep,
which mauls and mangles as it goes, and no one can rescue.
Your hand will be lifted up in triumph over your enemies, and all your foes will be destroyed.
“In that day,” declares the Lord,
“I will destroy your horses from among you
and demolish your chariots. I will destroy the cities of your land
and tear down all your strongholds.
I will destroy your witchcraft and you will no longer cast spells.
I will destroy your idols and your sacred stones from among you;
you will no longer bow down to the work of your hands.
I will uproot from among you your Asherah poles when I demolish your cities.
Instinctively none of us want to be vulnerable, but now you’re asking us to practice it! The very good reason is that, unless we embrace our vulnerability we shall never fully know either the strength, or the love of God. Bethlehem was chosen, wait for it … for her vulnerability. Small, insignificant, overlooked, downtrodden, abandoned. I suggest you read again the words, which surround verse 2 in today’s passage one of the most precious and beautiful prophecies speaking about Jesus’ birth.
‘God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong’ … ‘God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things’ 1 Corinthians 1:27-28.
Vulnerability is like death … best freely chosen (in the spiritual sense), before we have no choice. As Jesus says: ‘unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds’. John 12:24.
So where do you need to choose to embrace your vulnerability, in order to realise God’s strength is for you in that place? The likelihood is you’ll need to practice, again and again, embracing that which you instinctively recoil from.
CS Lewis once wrote in The Four Loves: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
So where do you need to choose to embrace your vulnerability, in order to realise God’s love is for you in that place? My hunch is we’ll discover the answer later today, when faced with the choice: embrace my vulnerability, acknowledge my lack of perfection or honest humanity to another, or pretend; put on the mask and present as a superficial follower of Jesus.
Have you ever prayed the full serenity prayer?
Dear Lord, God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next. Amen.