Rev. George Miller
November 29, 2020
The Season of Advent begins today; a time of hopeful expectation for the Light of Jesus that is about to arrive.
While the secular world is busy with decorations, sales and Mariah Carey, the Church views Advent differently.
Though we know this season ends in light, we are aware that it begins with the year’s darkest, longest nights.
In the darkness we endure loneliness, uncertainty, and unexpected situations.
Perhaps no news story better illustrates this than what’s happening in Ethiopia.
With a war raging on, 40,000 people have fled to the Sudan seeking safety.
Half of the refuges are under 18. 700 of the refugees are pregnant women.
One woman named Lemlem gave birth while on the run. Her baby’s 1st bath was in a puddle.
Her friend, named Blaines is 8 months pregnant and travelled across a dessert, sleeping on the scarf she carried.
Think of these two women, Lemlem and Blaines- they are perhaps closer to Jesus’ mother than any movie can be.
Think of the Christmas Story. Of Mary, pregnant. Traveling for days to Bethlehem. Giving birth in a manger.
Perhaps she too had nothing but a scarf to sleep on; perhaps she too had to bathe her child in a puddle…
Now, before we get too glum, let us lift up that in their stories there is the Light of Hope- Resilience.
Resilience, means the ability to hold on, be strong, overcome what comes your way, even if it leaves you a bit broken and feeling undone.
Resilience is a rose that grows through a city sidewalk; resilience is surviving 5 years of being a war prisoner.
That’s who we are. Why we survive.
Why we reach out. Why we show up.
Why we proclaim Emmanuel- God With Us.
Look no further than Daniel.
Daniel was a faithful, God-Loving Jew who lived during one of the darkest, most uncertain times in history.
Daniel was a citizen of Jerusalem. He saw his beloved city was destroyed. He was among thousands taken away.
Daniel was a physically fit specimen of human perfection. The Babylonian administration took him in as someone who could be taught their ways and turned into a proper society member.
But Daniel was a man of deep conviction and faith. Every time they tried to turn him from his ways, Daniel found a way to non-violently protest, speak up and do what he felt was right.
This solid sense of character made Daniel quite successful, so successful the next king promotes Daniel to one of the 3 “presidents” in his kingdom, giving Daniel authority to look after the people in his part of Babylon.
Danny-Boy is so good at his role that the other 2 presidents get jealous and come up with a plan- let’s have the king proclaim a law that says if anyone prays to anyone but the king, they will be cast into the lion pit.
“M’Kay,” the king foolishly says, passing this abomination of faith into law.
And Daniel? He knows full well that this law has been put into effect, but it doesn’t stop him from being who he is.
Just as he has always done, 3 times a day Daniel goes into his 2nd floor apartment, opens up his window that faces Jerusalem, and he prays.
Daniel just doesn’t pray- he seeks mercy before God.
Mercy, as you recall from Jonah and Jeremiah, is a Hebrew word rooted in the word “womb” and means motherly love.
Daniel, a captive in a strange land, stays true to who he is, and when told he must pray a certain way, he takes a non-violent stance by getting on his knees and praying to God for womb-love.
This Daniel, just like Rachel who refused to stand for her father, just like Hannah, who refused to apologize for her style of prayer, is the spiritual legacy in which we are from.
Though faced with death, Daniel choses life by choosing God.
Like Jonah, Daniel is forced into a dark pit. Instead of being inside a giant fish, he is in a den of hungry lions.
Yet somehow, someway, he survives, and he lives to see another day.
Now we could spend time wondering “How this can be?”
Was it Daniel’s prayers for God’s womb-love that saved him?
Was it the prayers of the King after realizing he’d been tricked by his administration?
Was it simply that the lions had no desire for the flesh of a vegetarian?
That’s for you to discern at home, but here is what we’d like to say- today’s story about Daniel teaches us one way to be strong, one way to survive.
How to be strong when we are in great darkness. How to be strong when we face uncertainty. How to be strong living with unexpected experiences.
Daniel teaches us one way to face our enemies. One way to deal with death head on. One way to face injustice, unkindness, and non-humility.
Just as Jonah can be a patron saint for men facing bruised egos, Daniel can be a patron saint for all people who feel like they’ve been cast into a lions’ den, living in dangerous times, or being asked to go against what they believe.
In other words- Daniel is all of us, and we are all Daniel.
Daniel is an ancestor we all share, someone we can trace our spiritual lineage too.
Daniel shows us how to turn to God, how to seek God’s motherly love, and how to open the windows of our heart.
No doubt Daniel’s story empowered the people of Jesus’ day when the Temple fell a second time.
No doubt Daniel’s story empowered the Jewish people during the Crusades and the Holocaust.
No doubt Daniel’s story is offering many people courage during this time of rising white supremacy.
This is the power of the Biblical Narrative; this is why we love to tell the story-
Because the more we know, the more we remember.
When we remember the mercy that God has shown before, we can find our own heavenly strength to
-face the darkness
-make it to the Light.
And when we survive, we proclaim our story so others in the wilderness, others in the belly of the fish, and in the den of lions know how to respond.
How to seek mercy.
To not give up without a fight and how to find the strength to endure.
To live on.
To be resilient.
To be tenacious.
To have hope, and to hope with the Lord.
For that we can say “Amen.”