Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Advent readings 2021 : Day 24


In which the exiles’ borders are secured


Genesis 10:8-12

And Cush begot Nimrod. He was the first mighty man on earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore is it said: Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the LORD. The start of his kingdom was Babylon and Erech and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. From that land, Asshur emerged, and he built Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir and Calah, and Resen, between Nineveh and Calah, which is the great city.


Micah 5:2-6

And you, Bethlehem of Ephrath, the least of Judah’s clans, from you shall one come forth for Me to be ruler of Israel whose origins are from ancient times, from days of yore. Therefore shall He give them over till the time the woman in labor bears her child, and the rest of his brothers shall come back with the Israelites. And he shall stand and shepherd them by the might of the LORD, by the pride of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for then shall he be great to the ends of the earth. And thus shall be the peace: Assyria shall not enter our land nor tread in our citadels. And we shall set up against him seven shepherds and eight princes of the peoples, and they shall smash the land of Assyria with the sword and the land of Nimrod in its gateways. And they shall save us from Assyria should he enter our land and should he tread within our borders. And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many peoples like the dew from the LORD, like gentle rain upon the grass, as he shall not place hope in man nor expectation in humankind.


After the story of Noah, of consolation from the pain of our hands’ work, we are given a table of the family of nations who descend from Noah’s sons after the Flood. The list includes both friends and enemies, just as every family has its clashes, conflicts, and alliances. These are presented as of old, but if the ark stands for the vocation of God’s people to rebuild the Temple as a light for the Gentiles, then the relationship between a restored Israel and the surrounding nations draws the boundaries of God’s saving grace: it is for all who live their lives openly before the Lord, both Jew and Gentile; and though God gives His people into the hands of mighty hunters when they turn away from Him, He will restore their place. A mother giving birth safely, and rain in a dry land, are both signs of grace and favour towards those who trust, and signs that underline the interdependency of life.

Struggle may beget strife, but that cycle can be interrupted: peace begetting peace, even if, for now, in the pain of labour, we cannot quite yet imagine a world beyond violence. Perhaps it is those places where our expectation cannot let go of aggression towards our human family, or where, like Jonah with Nineveh, we hope for the downfall of our enemies, that we most need the deliberate wait of Advent. Come, Mighty Saviour, and reign over us.


Biblical texts: Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary


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