The Greatness in the Smallest

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who is among the smallest 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.                     Micah 5:2


Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes was, in stature, a rather small man, but there was nothing diminutive about his spirit.   One time, when he was present at a gathering of unusually tall men, he was asked, as a joke, if he didn’t feel somewhat small and insignificant in the company of such big, strapping fellows.
“Indeed I do,” replied Dr. Holmes tartly, “I feel like a dime among a collection of pennies!”

Which is bigger, a dime or a nickel?  Obviously, before you can answer that question, you have first find out what it is that you rate as most important: the size and weight or the value.  Little children might see that big bright, shiny nickel and reach for that as more important, while an adult might reach for the dime because it has more value.

One little verse spoken by the prophet Micah took an ordinary shepherds’ village and made it one of the most important places on earth.  Yet when it comes to God’s Plan of Salvation, this is by no means an unique situation – in fact, there are many places where God does the complete opposite from what we think should be done.

An angel burst into the life of a not spectacular young woman [Luke 1:39-55].  Now this young woman would never be a great national leader, nor outspoken leader of some great crusade, nor was she particularly noteworthy as a great religious leader.  Probably, as with most of the other girls of her age, she was looking forward to a family, motherhood, and the usual ups and downs of life, probably hoping that when all had been said and done, she and her future husband would end up on the plus side of life, with their children having families and a stable life of their own, and that she and her husband might have an honorable and comfortable retirement.

But an angel’s message changed all that.  In only a few words, this unknown young woman from out of thousands of others now would take on such prominence, that indeed, as she herself realized, all generations would call her blessed.  After all, this young woman would be the mother who would carry for nine months the reality of God come into flesh, and she would give birth to the baby Jesus.

Joseph, of whom we know almost nothing, was taken out of the ranks of the little people within the great back-and-forth tides of world history, and we see him as having an astounding importance.  Listening carefully to God, he had put aside any sense of bewilderment and betrayal at Mary’s pregnancy [Matthew 1:18-25] and shouldered the responsibilities of being father to Jesus, assuming the responsibilities of caring for and protecting his little family, even when the political might of Palestine was out to kill them [Matthew 2:13-15].  He would do nothing more than any other father would do, and yet he would have his place in the eternal plan of God’s salvation for mankind.

Mary and Martha [Luke 10:38-42; John 11], Zacchaeus [Luke 19:2-7], Barabbas [Matthew 27:16-26; Mark 15:7-15], the woman with the hemorrhage [Matthew 9:20-22;Mark 5:25-34], the widow whose only son had died [Luke 7:12-16] – all sorts of people who had no apparent extraordinary significance in the ordinary run of life, people who would not now embark on a famous, prestigious, influential, powerful world career, but rather would go back to what would look like merely ordinary lives – yet each one God had demonstrated that they had a great deal of importance to Him, each one had his and her place as God was bringing His Plan of Salvation to maturity.

How much are you among “the smallest of the little clans” of this world?  Here we are in this corner of the world, and who will take notice of us?  Each one of us struggles to make ends meet, hoping that when all has been said and done, that we might end up on the plus side of life, our children having families and a stable life of their own, and that we might have an honorable and comfortable retirement.

Sometimes when we were young, and had all sorts of energy and dreams, we thought that we would make a big mark on the world.  Then finally one day we realized that the world is so very big compared to us.  The vast majority of the world will never know that we even existed.  No, we won’t be a Solomon, a Socrates, an Einstein, a Napoleon, a prime minister.  That often is one of the great disillusionments of middle age: to come to grips with such a reality.

The lessons today, however, offer us a choice:  on one hand we can become very depressed with how “small among the little clans” we are, or on the other hand we can stop looking at the size and even the comparative value to see the greatness among us.

Premature ejaculation can make fertilization difficult or impossible for the couple, who are trying to quit smoking. You have to bring back that excitement back to your sex life. If patients are combined with the obvious pain and depression symptoms, they could take the complementary medicine like pain killers, anti-depression or anti-anxiety drug to relieve their symptoms. Erectile dysfunction is different from other conditions that are not reveled in medical guidelines. What is inescapable if you listen to these lessons is that what made the little shepherds’ town of Bethlehem and the unknown girl Mary so valuable was not anything they could claim on their own, but rather because God had placed upon them a surpassing value.  It was God Who had declared that Bethlehem would be great, it was God Who through the angel declared that Mary would be great – not because of who and what they were, but rather Who was going to be present there in them.

There was no way that they could reach into heaven and pull down greatness, there was no way that they could grab the world by the lapels and force it to take notice of them.  But rather heaven reached down and declared to the world, “out of Bethlehem would come forth Him Who would be the Christ,” and of this young woman, by the power of God the Holy Spirit, from her would come forth the One Who would save Israel – Who would save all humanity.

We are infinitesimally small by the world’s, much less the universe’s, standards.  We have no value which makes us desirable.  In fact, whether we existed or not would not be noticed.  Yet in our midst there is greatness, right here, right now, among us.  What we celebrate in every worship service is that our Lord is here.  “Wherever two or three are gathered together” is what Jesus had said, and He would be in our midst [Matthew 18:20].  That is the very same thing which made Bethlehem so famous – not its industry, wealth, or size of population, but what God was doing in their midst.  That’s what made Mary so famous – she was no adviser to kings, no prophetess in demand, but rather what made her so important was Who was found in her.

This is what God is reminding us of today in Word and Sacrament.  No, no angel has appeared to us to give us as clear a message of our role in God’s plan of salvation as Bethlehem and Mary had.  It sure would be nice, it would be nice to be able to identify what kind of significance we will have as God brings His plan to its final maturity.  It would be good if only we could just understand what value we do hold.  And yet the point of today and of Christmas is that that which makes greatness is Who is in our midst, because HE is the One Who is great.  It is what God is doing, in and through us that gives us a value that is cosmic and eternal.

This is the message of Baptism, where God does to us exactly what He did to Bethlehem and to Mary.  In Micah 5 and in Luke 1, God held forth before the whole universe how important this town and this young woman were to Him.  So also in Baptism God declares before all the universe, declares before the angels, declares before the devils, declares before the Church and all humanity that this person being Baptized is now God’s very own child – someone that God places on the very same level as His only Son: in terms of His love, His care for, and His interest in.  Not even the angels have that position, because God said that we would rule even over them in the New Kingdom {I Corinthians 6:3].

Think for the moment of the widow whose only son had died, whom Jesus raised back to life.  That whole family disappears from our view.  We hear absolutely nothing more about them again.  And yet the honor God has placed upon them as that story is repeated generation after generation! – because to God they are not unimportant, but rather significant people as His Plan of Salvation becomes real and visible to the world.  GOD made them important!

I don’t know what I will do to leave a mark on this world.  I don’t know if that widow’s family ever knew how much of a mark they had left on the world.  I don’t know how much of a mark you will leave on this world.  But the point is, is that GOD is the One Who determines our value, and He has already proclaimed that value to the full universe in Baptism.  We do leave a mark on this world, because God has marked us as His own sons and daughters by adoption.

And lest we forget that, Holy Communion comes into play as well.  Think of this: from the farthest heights of heaven, from the very throne of the universe, Jesus comes where two or three are gathered in His Name – greatness is here in our midst.  But even more, it is to us here where Jesus gives of Himself to the same degree that He gave Himself up to death on a Cross for us.  Here in our midst, Jesus shares His very essence, His very divinity, His Godhood, His manhood, Himself to you and me.  Not even the angels, as far as we know, have that privilege of sharing Jesus that deeply.

Out of the very ordinariness of our lives, God again proclaims to the whole universe our extraordinary uniqueness within His Plan of Salvation.  We are no bit players, whether we are “little among the smallest of the clans” or not!   God has raised us to such importance that it does not matter how small we seem to the world, nor how small we seem to ourselves.

That then places quite a challenge before us!  How then should we live – obviously not with some sort of self-imposed sense of greatness, nor that we buy into the world’s standards of greatness or lack of it.  Rather, God is found here in our midst, He has placed upon us a tremendous importance within His Plan of Salvation, not where we have lifted ourselves up based on some imagined wonderful trait, but rather that HE is here in our midst, and HE will use us, perhaps without our even knowing it, to further His Word and His Kingdom.

There is something however for us to work on, and no, it is not that we practice how great we are. Rather it is to be found in the words of Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what the Lord has spoken to her” [Luke 1:45].  The Lord is in our midst – He has given His Word on that, demonstrated by Baptism and Holy Communion – “blessed therefore is he and she who believes that there is fulfillment of what the Lord has spoken to us”!

The challenge is to live the fact that God is fulfilling what He has spoken to us – to live in the freedom, the joy, the humility, and especially in His presence – in the wonder of what God does and will do because He is in the midst of His people, in the midst of this world, particularly in the value that He has placed on what would seem so minor and insignificant.  Mary had that kind of faith.  So also God has laid out before us in Word and Sacrament His unmistakable evidence of our importance within the vast universe.  As we come to the manger of Christmas and celebrate that He has come into this midst, our midst, may He give us the eyes to recognize all over again how significant we are to God because of the Greatness Who has come to dwell among us!

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