December 11, 2017

Advent 2017

"Expect the Unexpected"

The oldest of the major works of ancient Chinese philosophy is the I Ching (Classic of Changes), which dates back almost 3,000 years. Its main principle is that all elements in the universe - the heavens, human beings, and all parts of the natural world - are connected and mutually affect each other. This book has greatly influenced all subsequent schools of Chinese philosophy such as Confucianism and Taoism as well as the cultures of East and Southeast Asia that adopted, or adapted, Chinese ideas.

While we do not subscribe to the same notion of interconnectedness throughout the cosmos, we do believe that all creation flows from the same source: God. And we have scripture verses such as Romans 8:28 that says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love God, who have been called according to God's purpose."

We are familiar with the so-called Law of Unintended Consequences: things don't always turn out the way we expect them to. The Old Testament is full of examples of how God did the unexpected. In ancient times a man's eldest son was expected to inherit leadership of the family, property, and its welfare. Yet Cain, the eldest, killed his younger brother Abel and was banished. Esau, the elder twin, was tricked out of his inheritance by his younger twin Jacob, but it was Jacob whose name was changed to Israel and became the father of the Twelve Tribes. David was the youngest son of Jesse and became a hero for killing Goliath and later the greatest king of Israel.

During the period before the birth of Jesus, Israel was under Roman rule as a result of conflicts among the dynasties that took over parts of Alexander the Great's empire. Jews were divided over the concept of the Messiah whom God had promised to deliver them. None of those groups envisaged the One who came. God did the unexpected yet again. Instead of a mighty military warrior leading an army of angels to defeat the Romans, or an imposing latter-day judge who would merge the factions and re-create a united Israel that could re-establish the Jewish nation, a baby was born in extremely humble circumstances to a young woman engaged to a carpenter.

What came out of this totally unexpected event was the beginning of the Christian church, whose influence on the world has been far greater than the impact of Chinese philosophy. We can learn, or re-learn, the eternal truth that "God works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform." Note the present tense of works; God is still working to bring about God's ultimate aim for us limited human beings. We can expect the unexpected, because what happens will most likely not be what we thought would happen.

-- George Pruden

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