The Narrative Lectionary takes us to Daniel 3:1, 8-30 for the First Sunday of Advent.
This is my first year to encounter Daniel during the season of Advent, and I confess that his story doesn’t fit as neatly into the “Advent 1–let’s talk about apocalypse” theme of the RCL to me, even as I recognize Daniel predates the apocalypse lessons of the gospels. It does remind me of the power of story to speak to cosmic forces and change from the midst of very real, political situations.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were Daniel’s companions, exiled from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon–Jerusalem youths of privilege, educated to serve a foreign king. It’s interesting that we refer to Daniel by his Hebrew name, and not Belteshazzar as the Palace Master tried to re-name him, but we forget Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah’s (Abednego) original names.
Names have power. Whether we’re asking people by which pronouns they’d prefer to be named, or honoring the names people choose to be called, our response to people’s names matters.
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah attend to names as well. They serve the king, but they will not worship a false god, a mis-named idol. They don’t try to convince the king his gods are the wrong ones. They don’t share Buzzfeed articles to their facebook pages, decrying the Babylonian “fake news”. They just clearly stand in their own truth.
In the news in the US this week, we see the opposite of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. We see people calling political opponents by insulting names, and by insisting that if one holds different beliefs, they are wrong, and should maybe even be investigated or arrested.
Whether we want to say the word “Pocahontas” from the pulpit or not, the truth is, scripture speaks to the political realities of the day and calls us to cosmic awareness about how our little acts of resistance and truth-standing have bigger consequences in the world.
We are preparing for the birth of the baby Jesus, who will become the savior of the world. By what names do we call him? Emmanuel–God with us. Prince of Peace. Wonderful Counselor. Messiah–anointed one.
God is preparing to be born in our midst, again. And it’s a messy midst. But it is our midst. And for that, I am grateful.
Where is this text leading you this week? Please share your ideas here–for sermons, for Children’s Time, for special music, etc.
We will also have just marked World AIDS Day. How will you observe that in worship?
Are you still looking for Advent Candle Lighting Liturgies? Martha Spong has one here for the Narrative Texts. There are more in the Facebook Group discussion. Are there other ones you would like to share?
Marci Auld Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church and lives with her husband and sons in Boise, Idaho. She is a graduate of Trinity University and Columbia Theological Seminary. She serves on the Clergy Advocacy Board of Planned Parenthood and the Mission Agency Board of the Presbyterian Church USA. Marci blogs at Glass Overflowing and is among the contributors to the RevGals book,There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths).
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