The Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 18

10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.

19Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

Ephesians 6: 10-20 (NRSV)
(For use with the MORNING Daily Prayer)

advent-4

When I was a child, our Sunday school teacher had us draw a picture of the armor described in Ephesians 6:10-20. I remember drawing a stick figure that wore a Roman-style breast plate, carried a medieval shield, and donned a Peter Pan-esque triangle hat with a notched belt and football cleats. I could muster this creative image as a child because I believed God’s armor was literal: there must have been someone walking around in biblical times with my exact outfit! No doubt, she was a rock-star for God.

Some days, I wish God’s armor was literally in my wardrobe. I wish that I could put on pieces of clothing to give me the power and strength. If only my stick figure creation would come to life and help me combat the chaotic, the messy, and the hostility of our world!

My belt of truth would suck in my lying gut and gird me against dishonesty. My shield of faith would ward off doubt and relinquish me from burning questions. My loafers full of peace would keep tumult at bay. Finally, God’s own Spirit, God’s very Word, would be in my hand and on my tongue to strike down naysayers and any others who misspeak! I’d turn into the Ultimate Warrior.

But if this were true, I’d miss the entire point. This metaphor about armor spoke volumes to the original hearers in Ephesus, a minority group of converted Gentiles, and they did not hear a loud, rally cry to battle.

Rather, they heard a call to stand in resistance and withstand the hostility of the world, together.

God’s armor is not intended for one, but for all. As a community of believers, they are to resist the larger, darker spiritual and cosmic forces who called for allegiances apart from their faith in Christ Jesus as Lord of all. New Testament scholar Sarah Henrich summarizes, “believers are girded in truth, faith, peace, the Spirit through the word, and in prayer for their defense and strength[1]”. These characteristics of faithful living, with the support of God’s Spirit through prayer and supplication, keep believers battle-ready to face the world.

For the past 18 months, we have witnessed the most hostile, mud-slinging political campaign in our nation’s history. By the time you are reading this devotional, we will have chosen a new President of the United States of America. Some will be rejoicing in victory while some will be withered in defeat. Many of us may feel like we ought to don God’s armor to fight. But if we do so, we will be missing the point.

As we wait in hopeful expectation for the coming of our Lord into our beautiful, messy world, let us be encouraged to stand in resistance and withstand the hostility of the world, together. Rather than perpetuating doubt, spreading slanderous speech, believing lies over truths, or succumbing to apathy and fear, let us boldly proclaim faith, hope and love, together.

 

A Prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

God of mercy,
We wait in advent expectation for your coming,
To tent with us in all of our mess.
Allow us to stand arm in arm,
Linked together by the power of your Spirit,
To speak truth, honestly, with peace and righteousness
On our lips.
May we boldly proclaim hope and love into the darkness.
Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

 

Rev. Nicole C.  Ball
Church Relations
Richmond, VA

 


[1] “Commentary on Ephesians 6:10-20 by Sarah Henrich.” Ephesians 6:10-20 Commentary by Sarah Henrich. The Working Preacher, 23 Aug. 2015. Web. 28 Oct. 2016.

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