Author: Millie Snyder
Scripture: Matthew 23:27-39
Key verse: (27) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.”
Reflection: Is your home decorated for Christmas? Have you gone on a drive to look at holiday lights? Have you taken your children to visit Santa for the annual photo-op? This time of year offers treats for our senses — all of these sights to see, the holiday music to hear, the smell of the Christmas tree or of wood burning in the fireplace, and the yummy taste of Christmas cookies.
Today’s scripture passage warns of the danger of focusing on these things and neglecting the important spiritual work of our inner lives. Jesus proclaims seven “woes” against the scribes and the Pharisees, the religious leaders of his time. He challenges them (and us) to live faithfully with integrity. He goes so far as to compare them to whitewashed tombs, looking beautiful on the outside but full of decomposing material. No matter how intricate the carvings on the headstone, it marks the dirt over a dead body.
In this season of Advent, are you more focused on the outer trappings of the holiday or the inner spiritual preparation for the presence of Jesus Christ? It is tempting to focus on the wrong things. It is tempting to put our energy into beautiful decorations but neglect quality conversations with family. It is tempting to keep busy with long work hours followed by festive parties but neglect quiet time alone for prayer. It is tempting to overwhelm ourselves with “busy-ness” without slowing down to breathe. It is tempting to drown out any sadness or grief with another glass of wine. Jesus calls us to be real, to be honest, to slow down long enough to pay attention. Jesus calls us to self-examination that can be painful but will lead to life and hope and peace.
Prayer: Almighty God, we confess that we sometimes focus on outer appearances and not on inner faithfulness. We are seduced by glitz and glitter. We hide our real selves from one another. Give us courage to be real, to slow down, and to prepare our hearts. Grant us wisdom to welcome your way, the way of life and hope and peace. In the name of your Way, Jesus Christ our Lord, we pray. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].