The story of Israel is a pedestrian one – in quite a literal sense!
From Abraham, who left his family and inheritance behind him in obedience to God’s command, to Moses who led a nation of slaves through the wilderness towards a land of milk and honey, to the regular pilgrimages to the temple in Jerusalem that their faith required, the people of Israel rigorously put one foot in front of the other in order to follow where God led.
The exile into Babylon – which seemed like the end to so many – was yet another step in the journey; just as the return and rebuilding would be.
As God’s people lamented their sins and pleaded for mercy … “may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need” (Psalm 79:8b, NIV) … a promise was delivered of a Saviour, a ruler who would “stand tall in his shepherd-rule by God’s strength, centred in the majesty of God-Revealed. And the people will have a good and safe home, for the whole world will hold him in respect—Peacemaker of the world!”
(Micah 5:4-5, The Message).
This is the promised Messiah for whom many Jews are still watching and waiting, hoping and praying. Yet, for many of us who call ourselves Christ-followers and regularly proclaim, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again,” the urgent plea for the coming of his kingdom of shalom has too frequently been replaced by polite prayers for God to please do something for someone in a place we can’t even point to on a map ….
The season of Advent provides us with the opportunity to consider how our faith, our commitment to follow, our pursuit of righteousness and mercy has been dulled down by parties and drinking and shopping, lulled by the drudgery of daily routines, overridden by road rage and envy and a grand sense of entitlement, or buried beneath #hashtags and photoshopped faces.
As Luke warned his listeners to stay on their guard, praying constantly for wisdom and strength that they might end up on their feet before the Son of Man, so do the days leading up to Christmas call us from our complacency to stand tall and follow our Shepherd-ruler faithfully, that his peace may become a present reality in today’s world rather than the pleasant “one-day” dream that we ask for by rote.
If you are anything like me, you may well be wondering where to begin. One of the greatest reasons for our apathy and inactivity is often the sheer size of the problem ….
. < me
Yet, as Micah prophesies of the coming Messiah, he reveals a vital truth to hold onto: the salvation of the world comes from small things.
Just as the Messiah would be born to the tribe of Judah, the runt of the litter, in the tiny town of Bethlehem, so too can the most extraordinary, unexpected journeys begin with a small step of faith.
Today, put aside your Bible and/or journal in favour of standing up and taking a practical step towards making the kingdom a present reality. For example,
Walk around your neighbourhood. Smile at people you pass and pray for them as your footsteps take you further. Or put a doggy watering station or a bench out on your pavement to encourage others to pause for a while.
Pin up a map, pick a place, learn all you can about what life is like for the people there and pray for them. Support an organisation offering help or care there. Go on a pilgrimage if you are able.