There is a place I see often in my mind. In the summer heat, the grass is brown, but in the just-after-snow melt the green grass grows until it reaches high enough to wave in the wind. The winter is brutally cold. In this place several hundred people of all ages were killed. Their names are there. I often walk there. Sometimes I take off my shoes to feel the earth; when no one else is there, I lie down and listen for the grace of God.
In another place, I found a river stone shaped like a human foot. Then I found another. On them I painted a pair of moccasins. Two became a hundred, and then two hundred. I turned some stones to pairs of moccasins and some to bare feet. They became icons of footprints left by men, women, children, and even infants. Each set is different, as is each name. On the field of grass, I laid out hundreds of pairs of rocks. Whether painted with moccasins of differing colors or bare feet wrapped in cloth, it is the footprints of the babies that I remember the most.
Having seen the star, having been offered the grace, Herod the Great, the institution, makes a different choice.
Howard Thurman would remind us that all institutions will act in their own best interest, and that as queasy as it may make us, the church is also an institution. We face difficult moments where, when standing in the light of the character of God, we see within ourselves the calcification of our own spirits, spirits which have confused religious certainty with humility.
God leads Joseph, Mary, and the infant Jesus not through the institutional doors but out the back door in the dark of night, on a dead run, into a place of anonymity—until it is time.
Humble One, Did the desert stones remember That the footprints that led Out of Egypt Returned for a new reason?
This week we celebrate the birth of Jesus! Isaiah reminds us that all that God does, including the sending of a Savior, flows from God’s compassion and steadfast love. The psalmist declares that from the angels in heaven to the works of creation to all the kings and peoples of the earth, all should praise the exalted name of God. The “horn” is a metaphor used elsewhere in the Hebrew scriptures that is traditionally interpreted by Christians as a prophecy of the Messiah. The author of Hebrews emphasizes the humanity of Christ. Christ fully partakes of our human nature so that he would understand our weakness and fully execute his role as our high priest. Matthew interprets through prophecy the perilous early travels of the young Jesus.
Read Isaiah 63:7-9. How has God’s presence saved you?
Read Psalm 148. How can you praise God for the glory of creation around you in your daily life?
Read Hebrews 2:10-18. How does your relationship with the Child-of-God-Who-Is-Humble help you understand yourself as related to all other human beings?
Read Matthew 2:13-23. How has your church or faith community made the choice to act in the best interest of the institution rather than to follow God’s way of humility?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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