This week of devotions begins with All Saints’ Day, a day of thanksgiving for the lives of those in the family of faith who have come before us, and a celebration of the company of ordinary saints, past and present, who walk with us. In many churches, All Saints’ Day is a bittersweet recounting of those who have died in the past year, a remembering of those no longer present. Almost every year as I hear the calling of that roll, I think poignantly, I wonder who will not be with us this time next year.
The text from Isaiah 25 speaks deeply to the desires of the heart that are caught up in All Saints’ Day: honest gratitude for the lives of those we have loved, unspoken and unresolved parts of our relationships, bitter grief at being separated from one another, and a wrenching longing to one day be together again. On the mountain of the Lord, all peoples will gather at a feast, says Isaiah. The shadows around us and the divisions among us will dissipate. Disgrace, sorrow, and even death will vanish.
It is striking that on that day and on that mountain, the people proclaim, “This is our God . . . this is the Lord for whom we have waited” (emphasis added). It is as if God is finally recognized as True because this God is the one who is able to enact this salvation—a salvation not only from grief and loss, but from human division and separation. Our petty squabbles, our buried heartaches, and our most evil transgressions are all reversed in a moment of feasting. God is known by the power to bring to pass the deepest desires of our hearts; and in that transformation we know that this reconciliatory, deathless feast is our hearts’ desire, and our salvation.
Thank you, God, for understanding our hearts’ desires and being the God of our salvation. Amen.
Ruth’s story forms part of the background of the family of Jesus. The son of Ruth and Boaz, Obed, is David’s grandfather. The women of Bethlehem rejoice with Naomi at the birth of her grandson, and the psalmist declares that children are a blessing from God. In the scriptures, children are spoken of only as a blessing, never as a liability (unlike some narratives in our culture). The writer of Hebrews builds upon the eternal nature of Christ’s sacrifice, proclaiming that his death was sufficient once for all. In Mark, Jesus warns his disciples not to be fooled by appearances. Those who put on a big show of piety do not impress God. God wants us instead to give from the heart, even if no one but God sees.
Read Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17. Who are the people in your community who lack the basic provisions for a safe and healthy life? How do you try to help meet their needs?
Read Psalm 127. In what ways do you invite God to be part of your work?
Read Hebrews 9:24-28. When have you eagerly waited for something? How did that feel?
Read Mark 12:38-44. How do you practice generosity in the way you allocate your resources and time?
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.