by Peter White
On November 29, the Regeneration worship community of First United Methodist Church kicked off the season of Advent by telling God’s great story in song and a dramatic reading. From now until early January—through the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany—we’ll be posting that reading in seven sections.
But something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.
It wasn’t enough. The prince and the princess aspired to be instead the king and the queen. They ate from the tree that they weren’t supposed to, and this is when the breaking of the world happened. It’s like the programming code of God’s creation became corrupted. Like the operating system completely failed and crashed.
Welcome to Adam’s world. Welcome to the world of never enough. Of discontent. Of dissatisfaction. A world of human pride and stubborn rebellion. A world of anxiety and fear. A world of death and decay, of violence and pain, of deep, deep darkness. And of deep, deep sadness. Just one after another of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.
And God then spoke to one particular man, nobody special. His name was Abraham. He was old. And in a world where having sons was a really big deal, he didn’t have any. And God said, “Together—you, me, your whole family—we can put this all back together. With you, I can make everything right.” And Abraham, who didn’t stop to correct God on the “your whole family” part, said, “Okay.”
Fast forward some centuries, and the family of Abraham isn’t doing too good. God hasn’t put the world back together. God hasn’t made everything right. In fact, it just seems things are getting worse, because Abraham’s family, now a whole mess of people, they’re slaves. Did God forget them? Did God abandon them? Did God really make a promise in the first place? Was God maybe a little too naive about how dark the darkness was? Or a maybe little too optimistic about what he could actually do about it? Or was that ever really God? Did Abraham just make up that story? Because life in Egypt is oppressive and cruel.
But God sees their misery. And God hears their cries for justice. And God puts in motion a plan that will change the whole world. In the middle of the darkness of slavery:
Let. There. Be. Light.
God chooses Moses, a member of Abraham’s family, but adopted then rejected by Egyptian royalty. God finds him in the desert, herding sheep. Moses is a shepherd. It takes a bush on fire but never burns out to finally get Moses’ attention. And with Moses, God rescues his people from slavery. He parts the Red Sea and they escape. And God himself defeats the mightiest, most sophisticated military the world had ever seen to that point.
And God provided food and water for the people in the desert. And God led them to the mountain and provided Torah, God’s plan for how people should live. It was like a whole new operating system for humanity. Torah—a sign of God’s grace, grace to live as God intended. Torah—kept not to earn God’s favor; but rather their response to the favor God had already shown them.
But human pride and stubborn rebellion are tough habits to break. Broken Image-Bearers break things. Some might call it 40 years of wandering in the desert. Some might call it 40 years of bonding between God and this new community that would represent him in the world. Call it what you like, but it was a long 40 years. God proved faithful and true to his word and gave his people their own home, a Promised Land and a hope never to be slaves again, a hope to make the world good and beautiful again, a hope to be a nation that would be light in dark places.
They would be a nation to stare into the blackest darkness of the world and defiantly cry, “Let there be light!”
Give yourself five minutes to stop and breathe. Use this song as your background music.
Join us at First Methodist Tulsa during the Advent season, listen to Dr. Wade Paschal’s Advent sermons here and learn more about worship opportunities during December.
Peter White is both a Tulsa native and transplant, having moved away for 9 years and returning 6 years ago. He probably spends too much money supporting the downtown food economy. When not eating within the IDL with his wife, he can be found watching Netflix, whining about the Seattle Mariners’ pitiful offense, reading a theology book, keeping his toddlers from stealing each others’ goldfish crackers, or being a minister of First Methodist. He can be followed on Twitter @thatpeterwhite.