Advent | Day 4

Wednesday, November 30

  • Psalms 12, 13, 14, 119.1-24
  • Amos 3.12-4.5
  • 2 Peter 3.1-10
  • Matthew 21.23-32

“John’s baptism, what was its origin, heavenly or human?”
“’I will not go;’ but afterwards thought better of it and went”
Matthew 23.25, 29

Jesus believed all of life was an object lesson. Everything was an opportunity for learning. God is in the ordinary. In this passage there is an encounter and a story. In the encounter there is a teaching for our professional lives and in the story there is a teaching for our personal lives.

“What authority have you for acting like this” is the question put to Jesus. This is the question we ask any time we put a piece of our life into the hands of another: physician, accountant, auto mechanic, therapist—what do you have to offer me? Jesus said authority may have a heavenly or human origin. Parker Palmer put it another way: we have skills from our professional training and gifts that we were born with. When I stand in my college classroom, my Ph.D. gets me in the door; but I have found out it is patience, humor and intuition that generates classroom discussion. Our gifts are heavenly in origin, on loan from God, and we should not neglect them for an array of degrees and techniques.

The story: an immature son refuses to carry out something expected of him. To his credit, he lives with that decision for a while and concludes his decision was a mistake: “afterwards thought better of it.” I have made a few bad, costly decisions in my life. I chose a college on the advice of a mentor and it did not fit. I trained to be a preacher on the basis of youthful idealism and I outgrew it. In relation to each, I “afterwards thought better of it.”

The Father gave the son plenty of room to live with his decisions. God gives us plenty of room to live with our decisions. God’s forgiveness is always there. Sometimes what takes longer is for us to forgive ourselves. Then, if we don’t get it right the first time, by grace we can go back and get it right the second time.

The message of Advent is this: in the Christ-child God joins us in our humanity and as the Risen Christ God stays with us, whispering suggestions so we can think better of it. Deep change is always possible.

Ben Curtis
Professor, School of Religion

You can access an online version of the 2011 Advent Guide (presented annually be Belmont’s School of Religion) at:




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