Could you repeat that?” If you’ve ever had the experience of going for snacks just as a game-winning basket occurs, you know the importance of repetition. When we miss out, we want to hit the replay button. A really significant experience fosters our desire to hear or see it again even if we didn’t miss it the first time. “Read it again, Daddy.”
Neurobiology is demonstrating the great influence of repe- tition in the molecular conversation between nerve cells in the brain. Learning takes place when the nerve cells make new connections; repetition enhances the special communication channels. Initial learning will last if the connections are repeated in significant encounters throughout our lives. Even one new connection can create a network of “knowing.”
Psalm 146 is a song that Mary and her community would have known and sung by heart. The ancient songs from the psalms repeated the creation stories of Genesis and the salvation history of the people of the God of Jacob (and Rachel and Leah), and they show up again in the Gospels.
Advent presents a good time to repeat in song, prayer, and preaching what we believe to be true about the One we worship. Each time we repeat these ancient songs of faith and freedom, we make new connections. It’s how we learn to think and feel, part of how we live and move and have our being.
So who is our God? Repeat after me: Creator of heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them. Feeder of the hungry. Helper of the helpless. Judge and Restorer of justice. The One who keeps faith forever.
Let a song come to mind that reminds you of God’s faithfulness.
These readings convey that God’s coming, or the coming of the Messiah, will be profoundly transforma- tive. The promises of messianic possibility work against our exhaustion, our despair, and our sense of being subject to fate. The psalm provides a comprehensive summary of the miracles wrought by God in the past to make new life possible. Jesus’ life and ministry embodied these large expectations of Israel. The prophetic oracle, psalm, and Gospel reading all move toward the practicality of the epistle reading, which demands that we allow this claim of new human possibility to permeate all of life. Our life is directed to the reality of God, the very God whom we dis- cern in our present and to whom we entrust our future.
• Read Isaiah 35:1-10. Where in your life do you feel that you have gone astray? After you realize you are lost, how do you return to the way that is God?
• Read Luke 1:47-55. When have you spoken fearlessly about a situation in your life?
• Read James 5:7-10. For what do you thirst?
• Read Matthew 11:2-11. What characteristics draw you to a
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