There is a cryptic story late in the Book of Judges of the Old Testament Scriptures that describes a priest, a Levite, on the road, looking for work. He had left home, “Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,” in search of another spot. Evidently the “church” that he left wasn’t doing too well. Perhaps the mutual admiration between pastor and people had soured. Maybe a new assembly had started up in town, and a bunch of sheep opted for greener pastures and stiller waters.
In his travels, this wandering priest meets up with Micah (not the prophet). This Micah had stolen money from his mother, but then returned it, and when he did, she was so pleased she gave him some silver and they made an idol out of it. He decided to build a church around it, and now all he needed was a pastor/priest. The Levite enters, stage left, and they strike a deal. “You work for me, I’ll take care of your expenses; I’ll call you ‘father, so long as you do what I say.” It sounded like too good a deal not to pass up.
Things went well until a gaggle of Danites passed through looking for a place to live. They were seeking new digs, because they had not been able to clear the original territory allotted them by Joshua. We are not sure how hard they tried. They also were looking for greener pastures, and, they knew they would need a priest when they got there. So they struck a deal with Micah’s Levite, and promised him something bigger and better.
This doesn’t sound much like a Christmas story for a newsletter dated December 25. But the connection is this mercenary minister from the same town where one day, centuries later, a baby would be born who would be more than a priest - he himself would be the sacrifice, for all our sins, once and forever.
This baby born in Bethlehem was no mercenary minister. Jesus, in contrast to our Levite, departed the heights to live and die in the depths. He left behind the riches of heaven for the poverty of homelessness and false accusation. He sacrificed the love of the Father for the hate of mankind.
Followers of Jesus are fellow-servants; fellow-ministers. And following Jesus’ pattern, it’s not about what we get; it’s about what we give. It is not a pursuit of bigger and better, but how we can serve best.