Isaiah 25:6-10a; Matthew 15:29-37
What a wonderful picture Isaiah paints for us to illustrate “God in our midst.” A feast of rich foods and choice wines will be set before us, the veil that obscures our vision will be removed, death will be destroyed and tears will be wiped away. That same theme of “God in our midst” is woven into the gospel reading from Matthew which describes the awesome miracles of Jesus on a single day as he healed the lame, the blind, the deformed and the mute among others with the finale of feeding the huge crowd with 7 loaves of bread and a few fish. The purpose of these miracles was not just to heal the sick and feed the hungry, wonderful as those acts were. It was to point the presence of “God in our midst.”
Let’s look at several aspects of that phenomenal day by the Sea of Galilee some two thousand years ago and explore the parallels for us on this day in 2004 as we sit at our computers, discovering that God continues to be “in our midst.”
*Jesus sat down on a mountain—a very visible place and very accessible to the crowds that were gathering around him. In doing so, he became “God in their midst,” inviting people to approach him with their needs and desires. God has made Himself accessible and approachable to us. The God of the Universe wants to become the “God in the midst of our lives.”
*The crowds placed their needs at the feet of Jesus. They seemed to know that this was the place for the burdens they were carrying, whether they were physical or spiritual. Jesus accepted those burdens and healed them. We seem to go through life weighed down by own individual burdens which would be lifted if we only placed them at the feet of Jesus.
*Jesus provided physical healing for them. Even more so, he provided spiritual healing for those touched by him and in doing so, they began to recognize “God in their midst.” As they watched Jesus perform these miracles, they began to praise God as the source of this power. As we recognize the presence of God in our lives, we become aware of the source of light and power in our daily lives.
*Jesus recognized the need of the crowds for food without them complaining about it. God knows our needs before we do—a wonderful benefit of having “God in our midst.”
*Jesus taught the disciples about who he was in the midst of their blindness. Even after seeing all of the miracles, they wondered how they were going to possibly feed such a crowd. Once again, he opened their eyes to his power. We travel through life with such limited vision until we open our eyes to the truth that “God is in our midst.”
*Jesus took what the disciples had gathered and created abundance. He’s not asking us for anything more than what we have. With the gift of what we have, He creates abundance in our lives.
We are entering the advent season, preparing to celebrate the arrival of our “Emmanuel” (meaning essentially “God in our midst”). Throughout this advent season, explore how God continues to be present in your life through His availability, His personal care, and His creation of abundance in our lives. God is indeed, “in our midst.”
By Michele Millard
ST. NICHOLAS OF BARI
St. Nicholas, the patron Saint of Russia, was born toward the end of the third century. His uncle, the Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, ordained him priest, and appointed him abbot of a monastery; and on the death of the archbishop he was elected to the vacant see.
Throughout his life he retained the bright and guileless manners of his early years, and showed himself the special protector of the innocent and the wronged. Nicholas once heard that a person who had fallen into poverty intended to abandon his three daughters to a life of sin. Determined, if possible, to save their innocence, the Saint went out by night, and, taking with him a bag of gold, flung it into the window of the sleeping father and hurried off. He, on awaking, deemed the gift a godsend, and with it dowered his eldest child. The Saint, overjoyed at his success, made like venture for the second daughter; but the third time as he stole away, the father, who was watching, overtook him and kissed his feet, saying: "Nicholas, why dost thou conceal thyself from me? Thou art my helper, and he who has delivered my soul and my daughters' from hell."
St. Nicholas is usually represented by the side of a vessel, wherein a certain man had concealed the bodies of his three children whom he had killed, but who were restored to life by the Saint.
He died in 342. His relics were translated in 1807, to Bari, Italy, and there, after fifteen centuries, "the manna of St. Nicholas" still flows from his bones and heals all kinds of sick.
Lives of the Saints, by Alban Butler