category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 17

Tuesday,  December 14

Numbers 16:20–35; Acts 28:23–31

Luke’s two-volume opus is bookended by lyrical speech. His gospel begins with seemingly everyone singing—Mary, Zechariah, the host of heaven, and the devout Simeon. Singing is what we do at this time of year. We have good news to proclaim. God’s promises are being fulfilled. The Messiah is come, and with him the gift of salvation. So, we join in the singing of these lilting refrains that have been rehearsed from days of old and readied on lips for just the right time.

In the same fashion as his gospel began, Luke’s second volume, Acts, ends poetically. When we hear these words, however, recited by Paul from Isaiah’s prophecy, there is a change of key. A minor chord is struck. We are perhaps less eager to sing this song. It certainly would not make our list of favorite Christmas ditties!

To those who have heard the good news about Jesus and leave debating its validity, there is a warning: 

You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them. (Acts 28:26b-27)

Sometimes these lyrics of Christmas, and their accompanying melodies, are joyful and are pleasant to our ears. Sometimes they have more the sensation of a bullhorn or a clanging symbol. Both are truth. Jesus has come. He ushers in the age of redemption. But salvation is beyond the grasp of those who refuse to believe. There is a decision to be made when we are confronted with the truth. Sometimes truth is hard to hear but hear it we must.

The harder truth of Advent can motivate us. We surely do not wish for ourselves, or others, the fate described by Isaiah and echoed by Paul. So, we hear that truth, and we act upon it. We are moved to embrace the truth of the gospel, and we are moved to plead its case with others in our world. Paul was certainly motivated. The book of Acts, and our known history of Paul’s life, ends with him “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (28:31). He was motivated; he was moved to action.

Music moves us. Whether harmonious or dissonant, it moves us. Listen to the music of the season. And, with boldness, proclaim to those far from God that there is indeed hope in his Son, Jesus. It just might be music to some ears!

Rick Hamrick
Care and Counseling Pastor, Hope Community Church, Shelby, NC
Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Religious Studies and Philosophy

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Advent Reflection: Day 16

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Advent Reflection: Day 18

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