category: Advent

Advent Devotion: Day 10

Tuesday, December 6

Isaiah 41:14-20; Romans 15:14-21

I love the Advent season, and as a children’s minister, I start preparing for Advent as early as August, thinking about what we’ll do for our Advent breakfast or when to order the children’s Christmas tree for the sanctuary. We’ll sing Christmas carols, decorate the church, and get excited about celebrating the coming of Christ. But nothing turns me into “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” quicker than the Christmas song, “Mary, Did You Know?”

I deeply dislike this song for many reasons. Of course, Mary knew who her son is! Please don’t “mansplain” Christmas to Jesus’ mother. None of us know more about this miraculous gift than Mary! Leaving the condescending tone aside, the song also undermines the nativity story. Through Gabriel, the shepherds, the magi, John the Baptist, Anna, and Simeon, the point is made quite clear: Jesus is the son of God, the Messiah, the one for whom Israel has been waiting.

Isaiah 41 and Romans 15, however, remind me of this song. Both passages focus on seeing and understanding the miraculous salvation God offers. In Isaiah 41, God tells Israel that when God turns the wilderness into an oasis, all will consider and understand God’s power and holiness. All will experience the miracle of salvation. In Romans 15, Paul says that he preaches to those Gentiles who have never heard the gospel that they might see and understand God’s power and holiness made manifest in the miracle of salvation in Jesus Christ. The question remains: do we see and understand?

Perhaps instead, the song should be, “Fellow Christians Do You Know?” Mary sees her child and knows that he is the Messiah. She has considered (or pondered) what God has done and understands that her baby is God’s power and holiness made manifest in the world. But fellow Christians, have we pondered who the Messiah is? Very few of us actually look at the crying baby interrupting our worship service and think, “Yes, this is God’s power and holiness made manifest in the world.”

At Advent, God changes the narrative. God turns the wilderness into an oasis. God opens up the Kingdom to the Gentiles. God sees sin and suffering and offers grace and salvation. At Advent, we are reminded that the people who make God’s power and holiness evident on earth are powerless: people exiled and oppressed in a foreign land; a scared, unwed, pregnant teenager; a crying baby in a stable; a group of shepherds in a field.

Fellow Christians, do you know that marginalization, abject poverty, and deep socioeconomic despair are circumstances in which we see and understand the gospel? In the nativity story, we are challenged by our expectations to see the miracle of God’s salvation in a whole new light. This Advent, see, consider, and understand that the power of the gospel and the miracle of salvation are found where we least expect it.

Jennifer Jennings
School of Divinity Graduate

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