On December 4, I shared this mediation, reflecting on the Daily Office readings for the day, as part of the Advent Meditation series through the Washington National Cathedral. The meditations are posted daily throughout Advent – you can read them here.
I can’t help but feel the words of Isaiah cut through the quiet contemplation of Advent. The prophet announces the ultimate reunion of all people with God and one another—“a feast of rich food” where God will heal all divisions and destroy death—and calls us to “be glad and rejoice in God’s salvation.” Isaiah’s vision is startling in the recognition of how far we have to go until we can say we stand reconciled before God on God’s holy mountain.
The psalmist echoes this reminder that we live in the in-between, singing of the Lord as shepherd, guiding us safely through the thin spaces between quiet waters and the shadow of death to a table of abundant blessings—with a catch. God sets the table, the psalmist cries, “in the presence of those who trouble” us.
In our annual rush to Christmastide, it’s easy to forget that the child we sing of as “tender and mild” also challenges us to do the impossible: feed the poor, heal the sick, liberate the captive, and love our enemies. The Christ Child will set our table in the presence of those who trouble us and call us to feast on rich foods as equals.
Whom do we find troubling? Who are the “enemies” we try to exclude from receiving the abundant blessings of God? I pray that, as we prepare to meet God in the child lying in a manger, we will come to recognize that those who trouble us aren’t really our enemies at all, but rather beloved children of God just like we are. Advent calls us to undertake the hard work of inviting everyone—especially the people we might rather avoid—to join us on the road to Bethlehem.
When that day comes, I have no doubt that the whole earth will rejoice and be glad.