But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah . . . from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old . . .
This is the voice of a peasant hope for the future, a voice that is not impressed with high towers and great arenas, banks and urban achievements. It anticipates a different future, as yet unaccomplished, that will organize the peasant land in resistance to imperial threat. Micah anticipates a leader who will bring well-being to his people, not by great political ambition, but by attentiveness to the folks on the ground.
Herod tells the Eastern intellectuals the truth, and the rest is history. They head for Bethlehem, a rural place, dusty, unnoticed and unpretentious. It is, however, the proper milieu for the birth of the One who will offer an alternative to the arrogant learning of intellectuals and the arrogant power of urban rulers.
The narrative of Epiphany is the story of these two human communities: Jerusalem, with its great pretensions, and Bethlehem, with its modest promises. We can choose a "return to normalcy" in a triumphalist mode, a life of self-sufficiency that contains within it its own seeds of destruction. Or we can choose an alternative that comes in innocence and a hope that confounds our usual pretensions. We can receive life given in vulnerability. It is amazing -- the true accent of epiphany -- that the wise men do not resist this alternative but go on to the village. Rather than hesitate or resist, they reorganize their wealth and learning, and reorient themselves and their lives around a baby with no credentials.
from "Off by Nine Miles", Walter Brueggemann
Off by Nine Miles
I found this while working on my Epiphany sermon. The whole piece is brilliant, and worth reading. (There's a reason that Walter Brueggemann is one of my favorites...)