“House of Bread”
Advent 4, December 23, 2018
House of Bread
Text: Micah 5:2–5a
What did you have baking in the oven last week? What’s going in tomorrow? Christmas cookies. Perhaps a fruitcake. For Germans, a Stollen. It’s that time of year. Holiday baking. I love the smell when there is something in the oven baking: Apfel Kuchen, Blitz Kuchen, even just Bread! I am a bread guy. I will go back to restaurants again if just the bread is good. When Christopher and I went to Germany this year, we stopped at a bakery in Altenburg that had nine different kinds of bread. Now bread is usually not thought of as a Christmas thing. But while we always eat bread, Christmas is especially a good time for bread. At Christmastime, We Welcome Bread from the House of Bread.
Allow me to explain. Our text is from Micah. In the days of Micah, Judah and Israel had been at war, and it had been going on for a while. They wanted peace. They wanted it physically and they wanted it spiritually. Jerusalem was under siege (5:1). The forces of Syria and Israel were surrounding her. Citizens were scattered, dispersed, hungry (as is often the case in wartime), miserable. Things were bad.
We may also know that kind of desperation, too. (Probably not to that degree.) We have all sorts of physical and financial needs. Salaries and incomes go up and down with oil booms and oil busts. A lot of folks here in Edmond felt it when the housing market collapsed in the United States ten years ago. We have all been at the point where cutbacks had to be made in our home budgets, such as if the heat and air needed replacing, or if you had your dishwasher, gas range and car all go “Ththphph” in the space of two weeks. We have seen the victims of flood, fire, and storm left with nothing. We know a little bit about what Micah is talking about here.
We know we need the physical blessings we get from God and we need the spiritual blessings we get from God. We also know we need forgiveness. We know that we misuse God’s name, we know we sometimes blow off Church, we know that we disrespect those in authority over us, we know we hate, we know we lust, we know we lie. We need forgiveness for all that stuff. And we can’t get it, work it, accomplish it ourselves. We need help. We need someone to help us.
Micah tells us about that Helper. Micah here is one of the great, blatantly obvious prophecies about Jesus. The prophet proclaims the messianic ruler (the Savior) and how He is going to bring peace, and that this dude is coming from the house of bread. The house of bread, you ask? In Hebrew, “Beth” means house (if you have ever heard of “Bethel,” that means “House of God.”) “Lehem” means “bread.” The word “Bethlehem” literally means, “House of Bread.” (Though a small town, they were known for a big supply of grain fields, vineyards, and sheep.) Unlikely, little-old Bethlehem is designated as the place of origin for our rescuer, the Savior (v 2). We know from the Bible that King David was born there, and we know that Jesus was born there. That’s two awfully famous people being from such a little town.
Micah says in the text today that Jesus will rule with divine authority and bring peace (vv 4–5a). And because this is most certainly true, Bethlehem lived up to its name, “house of bread,” because peace, good rulers, and good governance are all part of daily bread. If you grew up Lutheran, you memorized that in Luther’s Small Catechism. If you didn’t memorize that, Luther believed that when we pray “Give us this day our daily bread,” “daily bread” means “…everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.” Bethlehem, the House of Bread, has given us all that because Bethlehem has given us Jesus.
And Jesus Christ did come, fulfilling the prophecies, born in Bethlehem as bread (everything everybody needs) for the world. Jesus and bread happen a lot in the Gospels. Jesus fed big crowds with bread. He fed over five thousand folks with 5 loaves and two fish. There was another time that He fed over four thousand with seven loaves.
But another thing you need to realize is that Jesus said, Himself, that He is the Bread of Life. We know that He gave His life on the cross for the life of the world. He died and rose again as the sacrifice to save us from our sins. He feeds His Church with the Holy Sacrament of His own body and blood. Remember the words? “On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He took bread. And when He had given thanks, He broke it, and gave it to the disciples saying, ‘Take eat, this is my body which is given for you.’” He gives us the forgiveness we need. He sustains His people with daily bread until He comes again to take us to be with Him and restore Earth to perfection.
Therefore, He provides for us in all our wants and hungers. All the blessings, all the good things we have in this life, come from Him. We are not meant to be alone, so He makes sure we have families and friends. He knows we need food, clothing, shelter and we have those too. And He also knows we need forgiveness for all the times we misuse His name, and blow off church, and disrespect our authorities, and hate and lust and lie. Our God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, makes sure we have all the “bread,” the stuff we need.
Today we find ourselves one day ahead of the Christmas holiday. We are still in Advent, but we are almost there. As we look ahead to tomorrow and Tuesday (as well as the days that follow), we know we will celebrate Christmas—the incarnation (that God came to us in Jesus), the life, and the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ. We know, we recognize Him as the true gift of God to save this world. AND He is the best bread, bread that sustains us, bread that saves our souls forever. From the House of Bread comes the Bread of Life.
And how cool is that?
In Jesus’ Name.
Adapted from Material in Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 29, Part One.