Thursday, December 29, 2005

A reflection for the fifth day of Christmas

FIVE DAYS INTO CHRISTMAS. The reality around our house is that, without this extended focus on the twelve days, Christmas would be receding into distant memory by now. But here it is the fifth day of Christmas and we are anticipating yet another gift on the journey to Epiphany. Granted this way of observing Christmas does not have hyped anticipation. Instead, there is a gentle, persistent remembrance and insight into the Word become flesh that is inviting and instructive.

EXTENDING GIFT GIVING. I've noticed that giving and receiving gift cards plays into this tradition. Redeeming gift cards at a store at least keeps us thinking about the giver, about the graciousness of the gift, and about the meaning of the season for a little while longer. What if an individual or household chose to wait to give gifts until after the "big day?" One might choose to give one gift per day to various people. Perhaps these gifts would be more unexpected and meaningful than the many opened on Christmas day.

SPIRITUAL & SOCIAL SKELETAL STRUCTURE. Open the gifts given to you today by your True Love: Five gold rings -- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Pentateuch is the backbone and skeletal structure of the Biblical community of faith. It is the plumb line in an idolatrous and crooked world. It is the narrative and standard for much of what has held Western civilization together for millennia.

FOUNDATIONS OF FAITH. Genesis traces the roots of a chosen and faith-formed people. Exodus walks us through slavery in Egypt, miraculous deliverance, and the formation of the Sinai covenant. Leviticus outlines the terms of the covenant, establishing everything from the calendar to minutia regarding food preparation. Numbers takes great pains to name every tribe and family; it creates a sense of community, belonging, and relationship. Deuteronomy renews the Sinai covenant as the nation prepares to enter Canaan after forty years of wandering in the desert.

BEYOND THIS FOUNDATION. How the people of Israel live in light of Torah is the subject of much of the rest of the Old and New Testaments. The historical narratives (Joshua through Esther) tell of the rising and falling of Israel based on adherence to or apostasy from the Law. The prophets (Isaiah through Malachi) are essentially passionate pleas for Israel to voluntarily return to live within the terms of the covenant, within which there would be joy and shalom. The New Testament is about rescuing the Law from legalism and vain traditions and of the fulfillment of Torah in Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul declares, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4).

PENTATEUCH TODAY. So much of what it means to live by faith is learned from the Pentateuch. Abraham took God at God’s word and it was credited to him as righteousness. Joseph first survived then thrived by faith. Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt singularly by faith in the promise and leadership of God. The invitation made to these ancient people was extended to Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph. And the invitation to “fear not” and to dare to believe that “nothing is impossible for God” extends to us today.

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