Taking Note(s)

Readings: Luke 1:46b-55; I Samuel 1:19-28; Hebrews 8:1-13

God finds fault with them when he says, 

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors, on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord.

This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

And they shall not teach one another or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.’

In speaking of “a new covenant,” he has made the first one obsolete. And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.

Imagine, looking up and seeing in the stars a divine and predictable pattern so immense that one lifetime cannot see its end. (Cecil J. Schneer, UNH, 1983)

In a science lecture on the history of astronomy, a geology professor revealed to my nineteen year old self the wonder of the stars in their courses, and how it had inspired people from all over the world for thousands of years.  His words opened a door into a deep but until then unseen reality. But when I looked around at the other learners in the class, the holiness of the moment had gone largely unnoticed. The person next to me had dutifully copied the sentence in his notebook, unaware of the wondrous revelation taking place before him.

The same happened in a music theory class on the circle of keys and in an oceanography lecture on the ocean’s deep, unseen currents. These extraordinary revelations were duly noted by everyone in attendance, but rarely noticed.

I could decide that these instances came to me because I’m more perceptive than others. But self-deception of that magnitude is exhausting, and I just don’t have the energy to maintain it. I’m certain that in other classes where I memorized material and kept good notes, there were moments of revelation – I just never lifted my eyes from the paper to behold them. I learned the lesson and passed the class, but I missed the miracle of it all. What was written on paper was never written on my heart.


If I’m not careful, I can read Hebrews, or any scripture, take good notes, and miss the whole point. I can even twist the words to discount the very tradition that fostered God With Us. But the fault isn’t with the law of love, it’s with my heart that doesn’t want its inscription.

Maybe Advent is God waiting for me to stop taking notes and look up as much as it is me waiting for God With Us to arrive in Bethlehem.





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