Saturday, December 16, 2017

Muting our Memory

This week, well-known theologian, author, and pastor, R.C. Sproul passed away. So it seems fitting that I include one of his quotes. At the very beginning of Advent, a friend posted these words on Instagram. They speak to the already/not yet quandary we often find ourselves in as we walk this earth by faith:
“The Advent season is that time when we seek to, in a manner of speaking, mute our memory of what has already happened, that we might brighten our joy that it happened. We leave the already of His advent to taste the bitter of the not yet. We, in short, go back, that we might look forward to His coming.”
This is not quite about starting over . . . but I wonder if that mindset would help us embrace Advent more fully. Advent stops us in our track and forces us to assess what we had, what we have been given, and what we yearn for.

It brings to mind the story of Ruth. My church is going through a short series on Ruth right now. For one reason or another, I haven’t heard all the sermons, but I know the story well. And it is perfectly relevant for Advent because Ruth and Boaz were, in fact, ancestors of Christ—being the grandparents of David, the shepherd boy and king.

Ruth and Naomi, returning to Bethlehem after succumbing to the grief of famine and their husband’s deaths, essentially have to start over. Everything Naomi had brought with her to Moab had been stripped away. But she knew that the Lord was still the God who provides (Ruth 1:6). Even in her sorrow, she must have believed this strongly enough that it rubbed off on Ruth. For when she utters her famous proclamation, Ruth is not only agreeing to walk faithfully with Naomi to Bethlehem, but to mute her memory of what already happened and embrace both the bitterness and joy of the not yet.

Had Ruth not said these words, the lineage of expectation would have looked very different:
“Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
(Ruth 1:16b-17)
But the story doesn’t end there. The loss is remembered, un-muted, and beautifully made right. The story closes with Boaz playing the part of the kinsman redeemer (Ruth 4-1:12). How marvelous an image of Christ’s own final task on the cross! Out of sorrow comes joy. Out of bondage comes redemption. Out of death comes life. 


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