Little drummer boys, kings, shepherds — on that night of nights they all ask the question that each and everyone of us asks with every moment that we draw breath as part of God’s creation (whether or not we know we ask): with what shall I come before the Lord…
6 “With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?
I’ll admit it…this is one of my favorite texts in the Old Testament, a stirring call to what is required of me as a person of faith. But again, these are beautiful words taken out of context so often — for if open your Bible and read all of Chapter 6. If you do, you see that these amazing words are really a rhetorical question posed by God in despair, despair at the failures of the people of Israel to understand the simple, basic, requirements of worshiping Him.
And if you read the entire book of Micah (it is short, after all), you will see that in the words of these prophecies, neither judgement nor hope stands alone. The future foretold here cannot happen without the cycle of judgement and change; it cannot come to be without the kind of overcoming of obstacles and failings that is part of true justice and true peace. And most of all, it cannot come without compassion and forgiveness. In the prophecies of Micah, the call is to justice but it is also a call to worship, maybe even to contemplation (“walk humbly with your God”).
It is, after all, about remembering…remembering who God is, remembering who we are in relationship to God, and remembering what that relationship compels us to do as we move through the world.
Not waiting, not presents like myrrh and frankincense…remembrance, acknowledgement, self-realization, and action. That is what we require as we come before the Lord.