Dr Kate Harrison Brennan launches our Advent series with a reflection on Christ interrupting our world in a beautiful, political and dramatic way.
Greg Clarke is CEO of The Bible Society.
Today's reading is Hosea 6:1-6
It’s my firstborn son’s birthday today; he’s turning 22. A bit like me, he has already decided he’s not too keen on celebrating them anymore. 21 was enough. Whereas my little kids (my wife and I are blessed with five of them, ranging from 22 down to 4 – it’s a long story…) seem to have shaped their brain pathways around the expectations of parties, presents and paeans of parental praise. Nothing could be more delicious than anticipating that time. “It’s nearly my birthday!” their chants begin about three months in advance.
I approach Christmas more like a 22 year-old than a 4 year-old. Do we have to do this again? It doesn’t feel fresh anymore; the magic is gone. I think life tears us to pieces and we find it harder to release into the pure divine magic and joy of the Christmas season. Too many difficult relationships. Too many disappointments. Not enough wonder.
Hosea gets this. He gets the brokenness and disappointment of the human condition. But unlike us, complaining about how unfairly life has treated us, Hosea identifies God as the destroyer. It’s uncomfortable imagery: God tears us in pieces, kills us with his words, casts judgement upon us like a cruel beating sun. God has brought us low. He’s seen us for who we are. Mist.
But Hosea’s call is to return to the Lord, who is not a perpetrator of violence on us, but a healer of sorrows. God’s truth-telling and transparency are his weapons against us. He sees through our hypocrisy and pettiness, our “love like a morning mist”. All He is after is acknowledgement, an almost plaintive call to be recognised as God. He wants to draw us into the economy of mercy, where the fallen can thrive, and away from the economy of sacrifice, where only perfection will do.
And then he promises to come to us like winter rains, and then like spring rains. Can we stretch it in Australia to summer rains, Christmas rains, the drenching joy of anticipating the coming of the Lord?
And can we imagine a time when we are calling out to God again like four year-olds, three months in advance, “I just can’t wait, Lord! It’s nearly time!”?
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Daily Reading Hosea 6:1-6
A Call to Repentance
6 “Come, let us return to the Lord;
for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us;
he has struck down, and he will bind us up.
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
3 Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord;
his appearing is as sure as the dawn;
he will come to us like the showers,
like the spring rains that water the earth.”
Impenitence of Israel and Judah
4 What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes away early.
5 Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets,
I have killed them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth as the light.
6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.