November 29, 2021
by Tamora Whitney
Creighton University's English Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

First Monday of Advent
Lectionary: 175

Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122:1-2
Matthew 8:5-11

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I love Advent.  I think it’s my favorite church season. I love lighting the purple and pink candles, and I love the advent calendars.  And I love the preparations for Christmas.  In Isaiah we hear about how great it will be in the days to come, when “The mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills.”  In those days “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.”

But those times are not here yet.  The times of beating swords into plowshares were a long way off when the events in Matthew take place.  Jesus is accosted by a soldier, a centurion and asked to heal the man’s servant.  A centurion.  Not a Jew, not a Hebrew, an outsider.  But this man knows of Jesus and trusts in his healing power.  Jesus replies that he will come right away to heal the sick man.  But the centurion says to him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”  But this man has faith in the Lord and His healing power, and he has faith in the hierarchy of authority.  The man says that the Lord need not come.  He knows that Jesus can heal with his word.  The soldier knows that when he is given an order, he carries it out. He knows that when he gives an order to his servants his will is carried out.  He knows that if Jesus says something, that will happen. Because of course, Jesus’ healing word is stronger than the orders of this soldier.  He has faith in the system, and even more faith in the Lord.

Jesus appreciates the man’s faith.  He says, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.”  He should have found such faith in Israel.  That is where the people would profess to have the most faith, but the strongest faith found was in a man of violence – a soldier – a centurion – an outsider.  In Isaiah we look ahead to the glorious times when men will no longer train for war, but before those times come, it is a man of war who professes the strongest faith in the Lord, and who has the most devotion to His authority.

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