From the House of Bread

From the House of Bread

Fourth Sunday of Advent. Fr Edmund Hill preaches on the birth-place of Christ, prophesied by Micah.

But you, O Bethlehem, little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, and whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.

Hebrews says, ‘I have come to be a sacrifice’; Luke says that the young woman went off, quite a long journey, to visit and help the old.

As you will all still be busy with putting up the Christmas tree and all the decorations, and getting ready the Christmas pudding and other baked meats, you will all, I imagine, have found it a great nuisance to have to attend Sunday Mass. But there it is. So let’s get cracking and consider this prophecy of Micah’s.

Bethlehem is the city of David, the ancestor of the one to be born tomorrow — the city whose name appropriately means The House of Bread. Indeed, how appropriate that our bread, who is to be born tomorrow, should be born there. Elsewhere Christ is called the Bread of Angels, because their eyes feast eternally on the Divine Word. So tomorrow the Word is to be born into the world for us to feast on him too.

And we are being reminded today that we do that, not only when we receive his Body and Blood in Holy Communion, but also when we hear about or read about him in the Gospels — from this beginning of his story when, still in his Mother’s womb, he goes to greet the last of the great prophets, to its climax and end in his death and resurrection.

‘Bethlehem, little to be among the clans of Judah’. How appropriate — or rather how typical of the great Messiah, Lord of Lords and Kings of Kings, to choose the least, the most little of the clans of Judah. It is the city of David the shepherd boy, rather than Jerusalem, city of David the king. How typical to choose that country village — ‘city’, indeed! — to be born in!

And where in Bethlehem? Not in a decent house, but in a byre, a cattle shed, laid by him Mother in a manger, out of which the cattle took their food, and out of which we take the Bread of Life. But that is tomorrow’s story, not, so far, today’s.

Readings: Micah 5:1-4 | Hebrews 10:5-10 | Luke 1:39-44

fr. Edmund Hill was for many years a member of the Priory of St Michael, Archangel, Cambridge. He was a widely respected scholar of St Augustine, and consultant translator to the Augustinian Heritage Institute. He died on 11th November 2010. May he rest in peace.