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Christ’s Open Hand

1 Christmas

“Now, my children, show zeal for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of our ancestors. … My children, be courageous and grow strong in the law, for by it you will gain honor” (1 Macc. 2:50,64) Singular commitment to the law is a sign of zeal and a stimulus to it. Give your lives, be courageous, grow strong, here I stand.

The law delineates social and personal definition. It answers the questions Who am I? and Who are we? Rest on the Sabbath, prostration in prayer, the sign of the cross, forbidden foods or drinks, customary and prescribed dress, observance of hours and seasons, build a sacred canopy around human community and every individual in the community.

Isa. 61:10-62:3Ps. 147 or 147:13-21
Gal. 3:23-25, 4:4-7John 1:1-18

It is good to know who we are. What if, for instance, in what would be a modest law by the standard of world religions, we attended the Holy Eucharist every Sunday with Catholic devotion, prayed over the Bible with evangelical attention, and sought out some cause in which to serve the arrival of Christ’s kingdom of justice and peace? What if our communities discovered again the rudiments of courtesy, respect, and politeness? We need to have some overarching sense of what human life is, what it is for, how it is to be enacted from day to day. The law, in this sense, is good and absolutely necessary.

Still, we can feel an inherent danger. The law that tells me who I am also tells me I am not like him or her; we are not like them. It raises pointed and dangerous questions: “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (John 4:9). Two closely related religions collide, a common recipe for human disaster. Deeply disturbing is the ease with which Jesus, sitting alone, speaks to a woman who arrives alone. When the disciples return, they are “astonished that he was speaking with a woman” (John 4:27). “God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are” is a perfect summary of a sick law (Luke 18:11). Such religion is fuel for discord, profound misunderstanding, grievance, even violence and war. It is a law of sin and death giving birth to “sons of wrath.”

This is Christ our Lord who was born “under the law,” who redeemed us not by a disregard for divine instruction and human order, but by doing what no one else could do. “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30). Jesus reads the book of the Father, and walks entirely in his ways. We are caught up into his life and mode of being. Just as he is the natural Son of the Father, we are the sons and daughters of God by adoption and grace (Gal. 4:5). The law is no longer, therefore, a disciplinarian, but a new instructor whose wisdom envelops and sinks into the center of a human soul.

“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, and it’s a new life for me” (Nina Simone). “Coming down to earth, he brought with him all the riches of heavenly blessings, which he poured out upon us with an open hand” (Calvin, Institutes).

Look It Up
Read Isa. 61:10-62:3. Select your garland, jewels, and crown, and blush not so to be admired.

Think About It
God is a garment and an inward nutrient.


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