Psalm 133 opens on an idyllic note that carries through to the end. The family of faith that worships together ascends to heights of happiness. God’s protective favor streams over the people like soothing oil and refreshing water.
To present-day migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers surging across national borders, Psalm 133 may read like fantasy fiction. At the time of this writing, a record-setting crush of people from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador is surging into the southwestern United States. They are fleeing gang violence in their homelands, domestic abuse, and the poverty that causes it all. Desperate pilgrims looking for work in construction, food service, landscaping, and housekeeping, many traveling with children, are housed for seventy-two hours in Immigration and Customs Enforcement holding facilities. Then, by law, they are transferred into immigration detention facilities.
When detention centers exceed capacity, migrants are released into the care of churches equipped to shelter guests. Christians who are determined to come closer to the psalm’s imagery of kindred living together in unity assemble at their houses of worship. They inflate air mattresses, loan mobile shower units, and collect hefty sacks of frijoles rojo de seda, the ruddy little legumes (red silk beans) essential to Central American cuisine. Donated corn tortillas stack up by the dozens. Onion-studded rice steams in a stockpot, offering its savory aroma to all comers, regardless of their national origin or family name. Everyone’s hungry—visitors and volunteers alike. Everyone, deep down, is looking for home.
Governments and gang leaders may exploit human need to gain social control. But God uses our humanity to put us to the holy work of welcoming strangers and of being welcomed by people who, it turns out, are our sisters and brothers, our children, our mothers and fathers.
Gather and unify your people, O God. Shelter us all. Amen.
Joseph has risen to a high position in Egypt, and now his brothers come searching for food in a time of famine. He reveals his true identity and reinterprets their evil intentions as being part of God’s plan. Sometimes we too are granted perspective to see God’s working in difficult times. The psalmist rejoices when God’s people are living in unity, as Joseph and his brothers were after their reunion. In Romans, Paul declares that his people are not rejected by the merciful God, for God’s promises are unchanging. In Matthew, Jesus teaches that God looks on the inside, not the outside. Thus, what you take into your body is less important than what comes from your heart, and God does not favor one ethnic group over another.
Read Genesis 45:1-15. When have you experienced God’s grace in forgiving or being forgiven? How were those needing forgiveness still held responsible for their actions?
Read Psalm 133. How has God called you to live in unity with those different from you? How do you receive God’s abundant blessing through such unity?
Read Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32. How does the eternal mercy of God’s gifts and callings sustain you when it seems like God has rejected God’s people?
Read Matthew 15:10-28. When have you, like the Canaanite woman, felt like you had to insist that Jesus come closer? How did your faith change or grow from this experience?
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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.