Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Third Thursday of Advent

Third Thursday of Advent
December 15, 2011

“I will not accept a bull from your house, or goats from your folds. For every wild animal of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all that is in it is mine.” (Psalm 50:9-12)

Sometimes people who believe in God think that God needs something from them. The sacrificial system of ancient Israel was complex and multi-faceted, and it served to orient the life of the entire nation around the God who had rescued them from their slavery in Egypt and formed them into his people. The system of sacrifice was not for God, but instead for the people.

Over time, however, folks began to see the sacrifices of Israel as a way to make God pleased with them. That way of thinking caused them to get very upset when Jesus arrived on the scene, seeming to play fast and loose with their systems of worship.

The Bible really doesn’t characterize God as needy. God doesn’t seem to need anything from us to get something to happen, like forgiveness or love. God does however, require some things from those who claim to be his people. For example:

He has shown all you people what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

While God is not needy, God embraced human need in the coming of Jesus. As an infant, Jesus comes to us as one dependent on human care and protection. When his family later feels threatened by Herod, they move to Egypt and find protection there. God is not needy, but in Jesus God has fully experienced human need.

When Jesus is described as Emmanuel—a Hebrew word meaning “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23)—the implications are breath-taking. In Jesus, the God who needs nothing from us, including our various sacrifices, has come to be with us. The birth of Jesus should fill us with wonder as we consider that God has fully invested himself with us. The story might explode later with a cross and an empty grave, but it begins quietly with a human birth that draws us into the life of God in a way that we can scarcely imagine.

God is with us.

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