In The Phantom Menace (1999) Yoda says this: “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Yoda sees fear as the gateway that leads to other bad qualities. Naming and owning fear, Yoda implies, renders the rest less overwhelming.
In this closing section to yesterday’s passage, Paul also names a gateway emotion to myriad other things: love. If Yoda summarized Paul, he might say, “Love leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to insight, insight leads to righteousness.”
Love leads to knowledge because if you love someone, you pay attention to them. You notice when they struggle. Knowledge comes only from attentiveness born of love, informed by knowledge of God’s love as well.
Knowledge leads to insight (“to determine what is best”) because only from accumulated knowledge and fresh perspective do novel ideas come forth. An unjust situation or a seemingly entrenched position can be better named with more knowledge born of love.
Finally, insight leads to righteousness as you live differently than expected but in accordance with your knowledge of God. You live pure and blameless (there’s Malachi again with his refiner’s fire) because you have the knowledge and love that keep you connected with God and neighbor.
May we also start with love as the gateway habit to a chain of betterment for ourselves and our neighbors. And may that love for neighbors be informed by what God’s love looks like in scripture and what it may be calling us to do in the present.
Holy One, guide us to overcome our fears and embrace the new reality of love. May we praise you even when love doesn’t prevail, in the knowledge that love will prevail in the end. Amen.
The prophet Malachi speaks of a future day when God’s messenger will come to prepare the way for the Lord. The Lord will then purify the people and restore proper worship of God. Christians believe that John the Baptizer was this messenger, preparing the way for Christ. In Luke 1, the Holy Spirit fills Zechariah, John’s father, who proclaims that the fulfillment of God’s promises to their descendants has begun. Luke continues the story of John in chapter 3, describing John’s ministry of calling people to repentance. They need to prepare the way of the Lord in their own hearts, thus fulfilling Malachi’s prophecy. Paul in Philippians focuses not on the advent of Christ but on the ongoing power of Christ’s presence to make us blameless and righteous in God’s sight.
• Read Malachi 3:1-4. How have you experienced the refiner’s fire? What was your experience?
• Read Luke 1:68-79. At home and work, are you usually the first touch, the second touch, or the third touch? How so?
• Read Philippians 1:3-11. How could you make expressing your gratitude to others a habit?
• Read Luke 3:1-6. How are you preparing the way of the Lord? What crooked paths are you helping to make straight?
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.