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Advent Devotional – December 23, 2019

By: Pastor Karen Brau 

Readings: Genesis 17:15-22, Galatians 4:8-20, 1 Samuel 2:1-10 


If we expand the Genesis scriptures to include Chapter 17, we read the earlier story of Abraham and Sarah and their family in relationship to God. In this part of the story, Abraham and Sarah have been longing for a child, but they do not conceive one. Abraham has already fathered a son, Ismael, whose mother is Hagar. In Genesis 17: 17 we hear that God is now saying to Abraham, who is 100 years old, that Sarah, who is 90 years old, will bear a child fathered by Abraham. 

I had never noticed Abraham’s response to this promise until this most recent round of reading the story. Abraham finds the promise of Sarah bearing a child so ridiculous, that he falls on his face and laughs. This is not just a chuckle — it’s a full body laugh! 

I am more familiar with the story of laughing that shows up in Genesis, Chapter 18, where Abraham and Sarah are out in the wilderness in place near the Oaks of Mamre. Three strangers come to Abraham’s tent, and he practices the gift of hospitality, sharing shelter, food and drink. As the guests prepare to leave, they too make a familiar promise to Abraham. The three travelers promise that Sarah, in her old age will bear a child, and this child will part of the lineage that will become a great nation of people, faithful to the Lord God. 

This second time Abraham hears the promise, he does not laugh, but instead, it’s old Sarah who is listening in on the conversation and who, in Genesis 18:12, laughs at the strangers’ ridiculous assertion. The laughter of these two ancestors in faith gets my attention, because they cause me to reflect on how often I join the couple in laughter at longings that seem way too impossible to come to life. 

We live in a time where one of the things that worries me is that our planet is on fire. I read this morning a news piece from someone in Australia who is reflecting on the pink sun and the ash-filled sky they are seeing in their city. This weather pattern is caused by the heat and multiple ongoing brush fires. The writer worries about what children are breathing in. 

I see and hear so many elected politicians and faith leaders from our nation denying the science and the facts presented day after day about climate catastrophe — so something new that involves these leaders changing their minds, seems impossible. When I imagine that around the world we could actually bring human-made CO2 levels down and save the planet by working together, my cynicism comes out. I feel the temptation to do a full body laugh like Abraham, followed up by a second laugh like Sarah. 

Yet the scripture story tells us in Genesis 18, that even in the face of Abraham and Sarah’s skepticism, a promised baby is born, and he is named Issac, as God commanded. 

Let us pray: 

Dear God, may we, at this end of Advent, have faith in you and join in your longing for humankind to continue for generations to come. And may we be bold to take the wise steps that are ours to take, changing the way we live on our planet so that all children and adults have clean air to breath. In your loving name we pray, Amen.

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