Extending the Kingdom

The prophet preaches to us in Micah 5:3-4, “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.”

Micah is the same prophet who spoke in the previous verse that Bethlehem would become great due to the one who would come from its city limits. Building from that promise we are now to read that the king will extend his reign to the ends of the earth. There is an interesting moment in this short text that reveals something hugely important to us; we are family. That is what seems to be the purpose here in this nativity prophecy. Though we had been abandoned due to our sin, we are now brought into the flock. Christmas is a wonderful time to reflect on the fact that Christ came into the world to make us His family, as we were meant to be.

635507822214854932-fountain-square-tree-2As a Cincinnatian it is interesting to look back into our own history. After such a long time celebrating Christmas the way we all expect, it is easy to forget that maybe it wasn’t always this way. A recent article shines some light into the subject of Cincinnati’s Christmas history.[1] It was a German immigrant, Dr. Ludwig Rehfuss, who first introduced Christmas trees to American by setting up a fir tree in his house in 1833. Socialite that he was, Dr. Rehfuss brought all sorts of people through his home and celebrated the Christmas season with strangers. As more and more German immigrants poured into Cincinnati, the tradition swept through the city and throughout the nation.

Germans, as well as Cincinnatians, were certainly not the first to celebrate the nativity. They were not the first to commemorate Christ with a tree. But what the prophet Micah reminds us is that this long expected Jesus extends his family. We may not know exactly when, where, or how the fir tree came to be celebrated the way it is in homes across the world, but we know full well what it means to celebrate the ever-growing family tree. The Psalmist reminds us in 103:12 that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” And so we are assured by the tradition of the tree that Christ’s kingdom truly is extending over us.

Let us be a people who celebrate not mere traditions, but the joyous occasion of our family becoming Christ’s family. Like the first Christmas tree in Cincinnati, may we be a people sharing our joy and our family bloodline (Jesus Christ) with others this season.  Let us pray for the opportunity to celebrate Christ’s birth with someone new in the week to come.

Pastor Chris Osterbrock

 

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com

[1] Tolzmann, Don Heinrich, “Our Rich History: The First Christmas Tree in Cincinnati, Thanks to German Immigrant, Dr. Rehfuss.” Northern Kentucky Tribune, December 19, 2016.

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