12-8 Advent Devotional

The Goat at the Party

Jan Gregory

Ezra 6:13-22

I hear Ezra’s description of the first celebration of the Passover in the newly dedicated “house of God” and can only imagine the peak emotions of such a gathering. Amidst all the preparation, the corralling and consecrating of carefully counted bulls, rams and lambs, generous sacrifices worthy of this pinnacle point in time, there is this smaller acknowledgment that even now, with our joy at full throttle, we need to acknowledge our “lesser nature,” our unbecomingness, our sin. Ezra recounts that among the abundance offerings made in joyful thanksgiving: “and a sin offering for all Israel,” 12 he-goats, one for each tribe.

We don’t usually like to go there in the midst of our joy and celebrations. We don’t want to be reminded of our Scrooge-like natures when we’re singing Christmas carols or our rancor when we’re lighting candles of peace. But there it is. Right in the middle of “the most wonderful time of the year.” The goat at the party. Not just one, but twelve, every tribe included.

Advent offers us an invitation to make ready for God’s joyful incarnation into our lives, but also to pause and remember just how and why it is we need a savior. So, let’s rope our stubborn goat-like hearts, prone to wander – Lord, I feel it – and bring them forward, too, in the middle of this season of God’s coming, tucked in between the shining gifts of profound joy that new incarnation brings, and lay them on the altar of God’s amazing grace, offering our best and our worst that we might be truly born once more into new life.

Rev. Dr. Jan Gregory-Charpentier is the pastor of First Congregational Church of Westbook, CT.

©2016 by individual authors and Facebook Narrative Lectionary Group.  This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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