Thursday, December 19, 2013

Advent, Day 19

The angel who talked with me came again, and wakened me, as one is wakened from sleep. He said to me, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it; there are seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And by it there are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” Then the angel who talked with me answered me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” He said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts. What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring out the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” - Zechariah 4

Not by might, nor by power, but by the spirit of God.

We don't want it to be this way. We want to achieve our ends by might and power. For that matter, we want God to achieve God's ends by might and by power.

We keep falling into this trap. We think that having the biggest and most well trained military will protect our country, but when we fail to work for justice around the globe, we undermine our own cause. We begin to believe that peace through strength works, rather than peace through vulnerability.

In our own lives, too, we fall into this trap. We shore up our lives with money and success, the might and power of American individuals. Some people lock themselves away in gated communities, succumbing to fear of those who are unable to get in. Some of us make job security our god, seeking a paid position in which as few people as possible can change our fate, rather than a position that does the most good for others.

We all do this. Deep down, we really believe that might and power are the way to go in this world. In the short-term, that may be absolutely correct.

But we worship a God who always has the long-term in mind as well. God could come down and knock heads together anytime. Some people still believe that God will do exactly that one day.

But how did God come to be among us the first time? As a helpless baby.

Would God come again in a way that contradicts this first way?

Author Robert Farrar Capon calls God's power "left-handed power," as opposed to the "right-handed power" of "might makes right." What makes God's use of left-handed power most astounding is that God, by virtue of being the creator of the universe, doesn't have to work that way. But God chooses to abdicate the power of force in order to have a relationship with us.

And that baby, Jesus, grew up and showed us that we must do the same, because love -- not force -- is the only thing that works in the end.

Even if it kills us.

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