Advent 4: Incarnating God’s Strength

Red Letter Christians | 12/23/2018 | Cory Driver
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Editor’s Note: A reflection for the fourth Sunday of Advent, according to the lectionary.

Many post-Enlightenment biblical scholars have been embarrassed by the anthropomorphization of God in the Bible. They reasoned that God, who is spirit, cannot have a body like we have. Passages that talk about God’s back (Exodus 33:23), nostrils (Exodus 15:8), feet (1 Chronicles 28:2), and arms (Isaiah 59:1) must be metaphor and poetry. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel addressed this issue a different way. In his book, The Prophets, Rabbi Heschel explained that these passages about God’s “body” are invitations to “theomorphize” ourselves. That is, when God’s arm is mighty to save we see that the true purpose of an arm, as a part of a human created in the image of God, is to try to work out redemption for our neighbors. As such, the passages from this fourth week of Advent prophetically address the actions that God will take and how we can emulate our Lord Jesus.

Mary - Song - Magnificat - Passage - Scripture

Mary’s song, the Magnificat, is my favorite passage in all of scripture. In it, she proclaims: “[God] has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:51-53). This is what the strength of God’s arm accomplishes: to confuse the prideful, to bring down the powerful, to elevate the meek, to feed the hungry, and to dismiss the rich.

Micah offers a similar vision in which the coming King of Israel, who is both born in Bethlehem and from ancient days, will “stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD” (Micah 5:4). God’s strength is demonstrated in special attention to the...
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