The Broken Favoured — an Advent Devotional

For Advent 2014, two ministries of the Christian Reformed Church — World Renew and the The Office of Social Justice — are together providing a daily devotional series called “Reconciliation: Breaking Through.” I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute this year. You can read my devotional below–but even before you do that, I highly recommend signing up to receive this excellent series in your inbox and catching up the devotionals here.

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:14

All my favorite people are broken
Believe me
My heart should know . . .

This forthright acknowledgement of human frailty is the refrain of a beautiful 2011 song from the folk group Over the Rhine.

The song—titled simply “All My Favorite People”—is not meant specifically for the Christmas season (although the band does have several lovely Christmas recordings). Even so, its lyrics linger fittingly in my mind these Advent days.

Broken is an important word to dwell on while pondering how Christ entered humanity so he could serve as an atoning sacrifice for us—God’s conflicted, hurting, and estranged children. In order to understand Christ’s reconciling work, we have to recognize that we are all deeply broken, so very much in need of a Savior.

In this season of reflective expectation, I am also pondering the phrase “favorite people as I revisit the Incarnation story. For most of us, a large part of Advent anticipation is eagerly awaiting celebrations with friends and family—our favorite broken people. Every year, I am grateful to lean into the narrative of hope together with those I love, with meals and songs and lights. I know that these people are gifts from God.

At the same time, though, I know this narrative extends far beyond the men, women, and children whom I know well and hold dear. Nor can it be celebrated as a narrative meant only for the people whom the world holds dear. Worldly favor falls crookedly, curved by injustice and fear. Most of our economic and political systems favor the strong over the weak—the wealthy over the poor and the healthy over the sick. These are haunting indicators of humanity’s woundedness.

All of our favorite people and places and nations and institutions are broken. This our hearts should know. The good news—the news made known through the miraculous reality of the Incarnation—is this: all of God’s broken people are favored.

Mary was a young woman living in obscurity and poverty; yet she found great favor with God, and so carried his Son. Shepherds, in Jesus’ time, had little stature; yet they were the first to hear the news of Christ’s birth from the angels’ holy mouths. And when these angels famously proclaimed that a child—a Messiah—had been born in the tiny, no-name town of Bethlehem, they pointed to this gift as evidence of the Lord’s generous favor.

From the family down the church pew to the stranger in another country to the friend across the table—all of us are beloved and worthy, broken and chosen. And we have unique gifts to offer as we aspire to unite the fractured pieces in our time, until God’s ultimate reconciliation comes to pass.

This broken person is God’s favored child.

If we let this refrain shape our interactions with others, I believe that even our imperfect efforts to promote mercy and encourage peace can become powerful testaments of the radical inclusivity of our Father’s grace.

(Originally posted here over at The Office of Social Justice – December 8 2014)

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