I live in midtown Manhattan amid a forest of tall buildings—
with many more under construction. Wandering among these
massive structures, some with impressive cranes pricking the
sky, can make a person feel insignificant by comparison—small,
I was present the dreadful day when two of the tallest
buildings came crashing down in a deadly conflagration at the
end of my island home on infamous 9/11. The magnificent city
built from human ingenuity had become a target uncovering
our formerly disguised vulnerability. Everyone felt it. In the
days that followed, churches clogged with scores of those who
had not set foot in one for a long while. This newfound en masse
religious awakening did not last; but at the time, New Yorkers
shared an experience of our fragile condition.
We all have occasions when circumstance underscores the
precarious nature of our situation as creatures fashioned of frail
flesh. And this was true for the early Christians. Paul found his
way into prison and martyrdom; so too did many other followers
of The Way. But in the meantime he rests confidently within
God’s imagination, telling his friends that God alone “is able to
strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of
We read this doxology in Advent to help ignite our own
imaginations about the true nature of Bethlehem’s child. We feel
at risk when we consider our particular precarious situation, but
this child will prove the antidote to our fear, for he will take on
the burden of human weakness so that we can find strength to
live with confident hope in the face of every adversity. This great
truth calls us to embrace our better selves while kneeling in the
straw cradle-side in Bethlehem.
Awesome God, you are my strength. You alone know the nature of my precarious situation. I will trust you as the child of Bethlehem takes on the burden of my weakness. Amen.
Second Samuel 7 extols Yahweh’s choice of the family of David as the extraordinary vehicle for divine salvation. God now plans to do a new and unparalleled thing in the life of humankind. Mary’s song of wonder from Luke 1 serves as the psalm selection. It centers on her realization that human life will now never be the same. In the epistle reading, Paul rejoices that by the power of God the times are what they are. In the Gospel text, Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear the “Son of God.” Overwhelmed by both the holiness and the enormity of the moment, Mary nonetheless consents to the will of God as brought by God’s messenger.
• Read 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16. Respond to the author’s question, “How shall we interpret good fortune or bad from the perspective of God’s good care for us?”
• Read Luke 1:47-55. How do you learn to embrace the mystery of holy time in the commonplace events of your day?
• Read Romans 16:25-27. How has God’s love shown through Jesus Christ proved to be an antidote to your fears?
• Read Luke 1:26-38. Where do you see the “lowly lifted up and the hungry filled with good things”? How can you participate in that gracious work of God? What fears can you name before God?
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