December 11, 2014
George Butterfield
Creighton's School of Law
click here for photo and information about the writer


Thursday of the Second Week of Advent
Lectionary: 184

Isaiah 41: 13-20
Psalm 145:1 and 9, 10-11, 12-13ab
Matthew 11:11-15

Praying Advent

Today's Advent Prayer

During Advent the Church invites us to lift up our eyes and see that our salvation is drawing near. I love the fact that Advent leads us to a tiny baby, all wrapped up, lying in a manger. A small baby – a defenseless baby – a baby utterly dependent upon his parents is the culmination of Advent.

This story resonates with my spirit. I know that I am small in comparison with our universe but why do I have to feel so small, experience a sense of powerlessness, and wonder if I make even the slightest difference in this great, big world? I sometimes feel like the minutest cog in a machine that appears to be able to run just fine with or without me. This frequently leads to a nagging despair and the thought that I do not matter at all.

The nation of Israel certainly felt this way. It was a small country and had a history of being dominated by first one and then another nation. It had a “little guy” complex. In fact, Isaiah refers to the nation as a worm, a maggot (not used in a pejorative sense but in the sense of being small). This was especially true when Israel was taken into captivity. Now we are not only small and insignificant but are also slaves in a foreign land. How much worse could things get?

My family and I lived just a few miles from Northridge, California, when the powerful earthquake of 1994 woke us up with a jolt. For many days thereafter we experienced numerous aftershocks. During one of them I was visiting a man from our church who was on the fifth floor of the local hospital recovering from a heart attack. When that aftershock hit, the building began to sway, a fact that was enhanced because we were toward the top of the building, and my eighty some year old friend with bulging, helpless eyes said, “O, my, what do we do now?” We felt so small and so incredibly helpless as that building rocked back and forth. If you could take a baby, wrap it up so that it cannot move, and then place it in the feeding trough of an animal – well, that is how I felt. A baby may not realize that it is helpless. One of the blessings and curses of adulthood is realizing that this is exactly what you are – helpless.

The message of Isaiah is that the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, is our God and he will grasp us by the hand. The Lord will help us. We may seem small but he will make us like an instrument that can crush mountains and make hills like chaff. The Church, listening to Isaiah and the psalmist, encourages us to lift up our eyes and see the God who is King of this great big world. He is the Lord. And, I have good news: he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness – even to worms and maggots, especially to worms and maggots. He is mighty and his kingdom is glorious but he cares for those to whom Jesus refers to as the least in the kingdom of heaven.

When I have a spell with my own little guy complex, our Advent faith stands my world on its head. It was a little guy, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, who brought to me the very hand of God. We have been grasped by that hand, the hand of an awesome God.

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