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Dec 15 Advent Devotional

By the Rev. Matthew Zemanick

2 Kings 2:9-22; Acts 3:17-4:4; Psalm 125

I wanted to write about miracles and the dangers of disenchantment.
Then, I made the mistake of turning on the news. As I write this, I am watching two so-called experts on prison populations discuss COVID-19 in our prisons. Not once, did they mention that the only way COVID can get into prison is from prison guards and administrators. In-person visitation has been suspended since March. Just like a vast majority of contraband, prison guards bring in COVID.
I should mention, I am both a Pastor and a child of our prison industrial complex. My father was incarcerated twice during my childhood. I watched prison devour his soul. Prison did not “rehabilitate” him. If anything, it made his PTSD worse.

I wonder what it is like for the millions of children who cannot see their parents during this pandemic. How many children worry about their parents as COVID ravages our prisons?
I speak from experience when I say it was beyond infuriating listening to others debate the human rights of my father.

Today, our readings are full of criminals. Elijah & Elisha were fugitives because they challenged the blasphemy and idolatry of Israel’s rulers. Peter and John were arrested for glorifying Jesus, who was given the death penalty for treason.

At my father’s funeral, we told the story of St. Francis and the wolf of Gubbio. My dad, Michael Francis shared more than a name with Francis; he shared a love and understanding of animals. The version of the story we found for the funeral ends with the line, “there is a statue of a wolf in Gubbio to serve as a reminder there is room for redemption in every heart.”

God’s whole story is “a stubborn, unwavering commitment” to our collective redemption. We could use some redemption in this time and place. God does not redeem the world, following all the rules. God does not acquiesce to the powers & principalities of this world, nor to the confines of human logic.  One way or another, the promise is, God breaks into this world – again & again & again & again. More often than not, the powers and principalities will try to stop Them. God will prevail. “Mountains surround Jerusalem. That’s how God surrounds Their people from this time on and forevermore!”

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