The Fourth Sunday of Advent marks a switch in focus from John the Baptist (on the previous two Sundays) to the events immediately leading up to the birth of Christ.
The Readings for this Sunday focus on Jesus’ royalty: his descent from the line of Davidic kings. As we will see, this royal status also accrued to his mother Mary, and this is the basis for the practice of Marian veneration in the Catholic Church. In fact, the first instance of Marian veneration by another human being takes place in this Sunday’s Gospel.
Reading - Prophet - Micah
1. Our First Reading is from the prophet Micah, 5:1-4a:
Thus says the LORD:
one who is to be ruler in Israel;
from ancient times.
Children - Israel
to the children of Israel.
in the majestic name of the LORD, his God;
Ends - Earth
shall reach to the ends of the earth;
he shall be peace.
Prophet - Micah - Half - Century - BC
The prophet Micah ministered in the second half of the eighth century BC (c. 750-700 BC), roughly the same time as Isaiah. This oracle about a coming king is similar in some ways to Isaiah 9:1-7 and 11:1-10.
“Bethlehem-Ephrathah” is the hometown and birthplace of David, the ancestral home of the ruling dynasty of Judah. “Ephrathah” is included to distinguish this Bethlehem in Judah from other Bethlehems in different parts of Israel. “Beth-Lehem” means “House-of-Bread,” so named because of its fertile fields. The town of Bethlehem was the traditional site of the burial of Rachel, and was (and is) only a few miles from Jerusalem, which would become David’s capital (2 Sam 5).
Language - Ruler - Bethlehem-Ephrathah - Way - Heir
The language of a “ruler” who “comes forth” from “Bethlehem-Ephrathah” is a poetic way of describing an heir to the throne of David, a new king who has the Davidic bloodline. This ruler is described in provocative ways that suggest divinity. His origin is “miqqedem” in Hebrew, which can mean both “from the east” and...
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