This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Voice of Wisdom and Word

Hebrews opens with a contrast: God spoke in the past, but now God speaks in a new way. Even as the author of Hebrews draws our attention to the present, the text traces a thread between the God of Israel’s ancestors and the God of the “last days.” God speaks and is still speaking.


The text describes one who is heir of all things, creator of all things, the “exact imprint of God’s very being.” This language echoes the wisdom tradition — the feminine image of the spirit portrayed in Proverbs 8, present at creation.

She is echoed again in the Word as described by John, present in the beginning, the one through whom all of creation came into being, who shines light into our dark world. God crosses time and space, creating, redeeming and sustaining through both Word and Wisdom.

In contrast to Psalm 8 — which asks, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them?” and says we are made “a little lower than the angels” — here God’s firstborn is portrayed in glory. He commands the angels, transforming them into gusts of wind and tongues of flame. This child of God who dwelt among us moves both heaven and earth, at once gentle and powerful.

As Advent approaches, we notice that this lordly image of God challenges our quaint images of a baby in a stable. It reminds us that just as small flames are fed by sudden winds, God is reflected in small places, no less glorious for being made of earth and flesh.

In the face of earthly powers, we are led by both Wisdom and Word, embodied in the fragile body of a child. The glorious language of Hebrews stands in contrast, though not contradiction, revealing a God whose greatness is reflected in the most unlikely places. One more glorious than the angels lives and breaths as a squirming, screaming baby, born of a woman, into a world in need.

In Psalm 95 we encounter both praise and complaint. The psalmist begins by sing­ing of God’s greatness and marveling at God’s creation, but the latter half of the psalm expresses disorientation.

The psalmist pleads with the people to hear God’s voice. “Do not harden your hearts,” God commands, reminding them how their ancestors put God to the test and were exiled in the wilderness.

And yet the psalmist praises God, for the God of their ancestors is their God today. And, as we read in Hebrews, this God who formed the land and the sea remains faithful.

Though hearkening back to a time of disorientation and wandering, the psalmist also orients the people toward a God who is worthy of praise — even in the moments when God’s goodness is not readily apparent.

The God of all creation is the same God who comes to dwell among us. The people may have been exiled, just as many today experience exile, both literal and figurative. But that is not the final word. God has not stopped speaking, and neither should we cease our songs of praise.

Each year during Advent we remember that we live an already/not-yet existence. God reconciles us to Godself through Christ, yet the path of history is still unfolding. We watch, wait and work in anticipation of God’s good future for our broken world.

God seeks our open ears and softened hearts, that we might learn to worship our Maker. Oh, that today we would listen to God’s voice. Listen, and hear something new.

Meghan Florian of Durham, N.C., works in the Center for Theological Writing at Duke Divinity School. She is a member of Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship.

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