Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30″
One of the aspects of Advent and Christmas we often forget is how God’s birth and reign turned the world on its head. We want to think of Christ as bringing love and happiness which he certainly does. But Advent is also a time of repentance, a time to consider the ways in which we have not acted in holy and just ways. In passages like the Magnificat, we hear that the hungry will be filled and the rich sent away empty (Luke 1: 53). At this time of year, we also hear words from the prophets who warn us what will happen if we refuse to take care of the poor.
Amos warns us what will happen if we “trample on the needy” (v. 4).
“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.” (Genesis 8:20, NRSV)
The first thing Noah did after stepping out of the ark is built an altar.
Immediately, they worship.
On mission trips to Costa Rica, the team would worship with the hosting congregation. We were doing ministry in a little shantytown known as Los Diques. The first time I went on this mission trip, I was not ready for what I experienced. Worship was different from what most of us experienced in the States. And it was not just because it was in Spanish.
“Pilate said to them, ‘Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ All of them said, ‘Let him be crucified!'” (Matthew 27:22, NRSV)
Who is innocent?
Who is guilty?
Walls are typically built for protection. Nehemiah, in the Old Testament, leads a huge undertaking in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. The Great Wall of China was built to protect dynasties from invasions by surrounding tribes. We build fences around our yards to prevent the neighbor’s pets from trampling our lawns. Emotional walls are produced to protect ourselves from getting hurt by others.
Walls are protective.
“Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.'” (Genesis 8:15-16, NRSV)
For forty days and forty nights Noah and his family, along with an ark full of animals, floated. Finally, the rains stopped and the waters receded. And then, God said to Noah, “Go.”
“Go out of the ark.”
They had gone into the ark to seek shelter from the coming storm. They had gone in obedience to the word of God. But once the waters receded, it was time to go out.
They had been inside long enough.
Too often we choose to stay inside the ark. Read “church” or “comfort zone” or “pew.” And it’s comfortable in our arks. It is safe and familiar. We know what to expect inside our ark.