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December 5, 2018 - Against All Appearances

Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

Scripture Readings

“It’s still dark out, Mama,” my three-year old exclaims, as we stumble down our steps and into our car, ready to start a new workday. I will take her to her preschool and then make the trek to my office. “Yes, it is still dark,” I affirm. And, while her three-year-old mind might not yet look ahead to the end of the day, I do - and I know that when I pick her up from preschool and get dinner started for the family, it will again be quite dark. Our going and our coming home are bookended by nighttime moon and stars; for these next couple months, days will be shorter and colder.

Even our daylight hours are darkened - we experience mostly grey skies. I know so many people affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that shows up in the grey, cold months, that makes a person feel more on edge, less energetic. In the midst of all this darkness, life can feel very hard, very cold, very devoid of light.

And yet, despite the darkness, we still light one small candle this first week of advent - the candle of hope. We proclaim that “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” and we, too, who walk in darkness, hope and pray for this light. Yet even that one small light in the darkness seems improbable. How can that one small light really do much of anything?  

Today’s scriptures reminds us that God loves seeming improbable things. The scriptures show us that God is still with us even in very very small ways, but from that smallness we may encounter great things.

The first reading from the prophet Isaiah (25:6-10a) speaks of a “feast of rich foods and choice wine,” and of a time when death will be no more and tears will be wiped away. We live in a world where disbelief in the death of death is easier than belief in a Lord who wipes away all tears and lives forever. Yet today’s gospel reminds us that such an abundant feast and such a casting away of death, exists in the person of Jesus. Those first century people that are healed and that receive a feast in today’s gospel (Matthew 15:29-37) encountered God’s true abundance.

 

Sometimes, my students ask: “Why don’t these miracles still occur today?” I tell them that they do still occur but they can be difficult to see.  I also ask them to recognize how amazing it is that these people from the first century, who experienced all this abundance of food and healing in today’s scripture, had such a radical encounter with Jesus that even after his death and resurrection, they passed along that faith in Jesus to the next generation and to the next and the next, till it comes right up to today.

Part of the way they passed along that encounter was through the Eucharist - our small taste of that abundant meal of heaven, even in this old dark world! The Eucharist, like the one small candle shining against the darkness, reminds us that God is still with us, even against all appearances to the contrary. It is a small taste of a very rich meal.

Today, let us celebrate the small, even improbable encounters we have with God, remembering that even in darkness, God is light.

- Jana M. Bennett