category: Advent

Advent Devotion: Day 11

Wednesday,  December 7

Genesis 15:1-18; Matthew 12:33-37

This episode in Abram’s journey begins, “After these things.” What were “these things”? If we look back at the story leading up to Genesis 15, the things that this part of the story comes after include considerable family drama that gets caught up in geopolitical affairs of the ancient Near East during a family relocation of about 1,400 miles. Along the way Abraham experiences the death of his father, a divine call to uproot his family from the place they call home and journey toward an unknown destination, famine, life as refugees in Egypt (where Abraham occasions some family drama himself), followed by prosperity back in a place that had become home—but also family squabbles, war, the kidnapping and rescue of his nephew, and childlessness. It’s “after these things” that we read about God’s covenant with Abram and Abram’s faithful response.

Our journey of faith is always happening “after these things.” What are “these things” that our own encounter with God comes “after”? We can fill in the blank. Whatever has been going on in our lives, from deep in our past to whatever has happened already today, God is calling us to the next step in our journey “after these things.” Notice what God says to Abram “after these things”: “Do not be afraid.” “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield.” That is, “I will protect you.” “I will take care of you.” Advent is not only about the coming of Jesus into the world and the coming of Jesus at the end of time in the fullness of the reign of God, but also about God’s coming into the world and into our lives in the here and now. We don’t know what’s ahead, but the God of Advent comes to us and assures us God will take care of us and that God will be with us.

Abram is not yet entirely convinced of that. He points out that he’s childless. But God says, “No, you will have a child of your own who will be your heir.” The text says that Abram believed God, and that “God reckoned it to him as righteousness.”

That’s an interesting thing for God to say about Abram, because there were aspects of Abram’s life that were rather un-righteous, like passing his wife Sarai off as his sister and letting Pharaoh take Sarai as his wife so Abram could live. He is still in some ways what Jesus in Matthew 12 calls “an evil person” who “brings evil things out of an evil treasure” (v. 35 NRSV). But God is also in the process of transforming Abram’s life so that he will become “a good person” who “brings good things out of a good treasure.” The God of Advent comes into our lives, like God came into Abram’s life, not only to regard us as righteous by virtue of the righteousness of Christ, but also to make us more and more actually righteous, truly good people.

Steven R. Harmon

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Advent Devotion: Day 10

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Advent Devotion: Day 12

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