by Thomas Ryden
December 9, Wednesday – Psalms 38, 119:25–48; Amos 8; Revelation 1:17-2:11; Matthew 23:1-12
(ESV Daily Office Readings Online)
During the season of Advent, I often think about the “good news of great joy” that the angel declares to the shepherds in Luke 2. Good news can change the world.
But what about news that’s not so great? Our reading from the book of Amos doesn’t paint an upbeat picture of the future of Israel. Songs of praise and feasts will turn into wailing and death will visit God’s people. Why is this destruction coming? We get a clue in verses 4-6: the powerful are using their position of strength to take advantage of and push down the less fortunate. Those whose greed has made them complacent will soon see the fruit of their injustices.
The message from our reading from Revelation to the church in Smyrna stands in sharp contrast to the message delivered by Amos. Although the church will experience a time of trial, God promises to be with the people through their suffering. Further, he will deliver on the promise of life after death, so that even if the present sufferings end in death, there is still hope. This is a message of hope in the face of suffering.
I think we can learn from both of these messages. When we are in times of ease, let us reflect on the ways in which our comfort may be contributing to injustice in the world. When we are suffering, let us keep doing good and hope in the final victory of God through Jesus.
The key to developing this kind of attitude is given to us in our Gospel reading for today: “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” Humility can help us to see when we wrongfully put ourselves first and hurt others in the process. Second, plugging into the downwardly mobile way of Jesus helps us to put our trust not in our own strength, but in the strength of the one who came to us not as a warrior, but as a baby.
Image of George Minne’s Kneeling Boy by Johan Wieland (used by permission via Creative Commons).