Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Advent Devotional #17

Today's devotion from Goshen College:


By Ann Hostetler, professor of English

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26 (NRSV)

Scroll down for complete Scripture.



As I watch my blue-eyed, olive-skinned granddaughter play with her blocks, I marvel at how she is very much herself, yet bears the genetic codes of multiple family "lines" in her DNA. Her descendants on three sides are Swiss-Mennonites that can trace their genealogy back to the Reformation. On the fourth side she has a Taino Indian, African and Puerto Rican heritage. Her grandfather from this side remarks to me on Thanksgiving, when our families are together, that it must be nice to have so many pictures and books from my family in our house. My family "line" has been made known to me from birth by parents who were also historians and genealogists and it is now my responsibility to preserve it and pass it on. This sometimes feels like a burden, but, through another's eyes, I am reminded that it is also a privilege.

Psalm 89 begins with gratitude and a hymn of praise to the Creator who has promised: "I will establish your descendants forever." The psalmist seems to be suggesting that God has, in fact, favored a particular family line whose throne will endure "for all generations," who will produce a king who is "mighty" and will "crush his foes." When we read the Psalmist's lines, we want to identify ourselves with this heritage. And yet, to a contemporary ear, these lines sound tribal and exclusive. If God favors only one line, who is being left out?

In reading the New Testament, we come to understand that family line is only an earthly metaphor for the heritage of salvation that Jesus offers. The psalmist, like all poets, draws on metaphors from the life he knows, much as I have drawn on the example of my granddaughter. Such metaphors help us to relate an idea to our own experience, but they can also prevent us from seeing beyond it.

As we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus in this Advent season, let us remember to look beyond our earthly ideas of greatness to the source of goodness and mercy and justice that exceeds the bounds of such limited, and sometimes limiting, symbols. Jesus, who came to fulfill God's promise, often defied ideals of earthly power by acting more humbly -- and also more faithfully -- than King David ever did. Likewise, Jesus transcends an exclusive genetic heritage, and claims all believers -- beyond nation, race, gender or creed -- as descendants of his family line.

It is not the physical features of a particular genetic heritage that identify us as members of this family, but rather God's love that shines through the faces of believers everywhere.


SCRIPTURE: Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26 (NRSV)

A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite.

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, for ever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.

(I declare that your steadfast love is established for ever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

You said, 'I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David:

"I will establish your descendants for ever, and build your throne for all generations." ' Selah

( Then you spoke in a vision to your faithful one, and

said: 'I have set the crown on one who is mighty, I have exalted one chosen from the people.

I have found my servant David; with my holy oil I have anointed him; my hand shall always remain with him; my arm also shall strengthen him.

The enemy shall not outwit him, the wicked shall not humble him.

I will crush his foes before him and strike down those who hate him.

My faithfulness and steadfast love shall be with him; and in my name his horn shall be exalted.

I will set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers.

He shall cry to me, “You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation!"

View all of this season's devotions at

Goshen College


The views and beliefs expressed in the devotional piece prepared by

each individual reflect their own spiritual growth journey and

thoughts, and while created in a campus environment that encourages

thoughtful questions and reflection on biblical Scripture and

contemporary Christian themes, do not necessarily represent the

official institutional positions of Goshen College or Mennonite Church


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