Matthew 17:9a, 10-13
As they were coming down from the mountain, the disciples asked Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He said in reply, “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things: but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
We have, as a whole, managed to make Advent easy to handle in many ways. We buy cute Advent calendars for our kids who open little doors with exciting pictures each day as they look forward to Christmas. We light a new candle in our Advent wreaths each week in anticipation of the happy day coming. These are good things in themselves, but they are not really preparing the way in the manner of John the Baptist who called the priests and scholars “You brood of vipers.” They are not reminders of the prophets who suffered at the hands of the rich and powerful as they tried to deliver messages from God. While these happy moments are important in one sense, we who want to grow in our faith need to open the windows of our souls to Isaiah, Elijah, and John the Baptist. We need the truth of our lives to light up the darkness around us. Preparing the way for Jesus means speaking truth to power; it means doing the right thing no matter the cost.
Harriet Tubman, born Araminta Ross as a slave in Maryland around 1822, seems to have been chosen by God to bring hope to those who were living in despair, freedom to those in slavery. Even as a child, she worked long hours with no pay. She suffered beatings for events beyond her control, often had little food to eat, and lived in constant fear of being sold away from her family. As a teen, “Minty” as she was called, was hit in the head with a heavy metal object thrown by a foreman and aimed at another slave. This head injury caused her trouble all her life. After the injury, however, she began to have vivid dreams which she felt were from God. She became devout in prayer and listened intently to Scripture readings and devotional hymns. She learned to be resourceful, and she knew all people were called to freedom. At 22, “Minty” married a freed slave and took her mother’s first name and her husband’s last name, becoming Harriet Tubman.
When Harriet was around 27, chain gangs threatened her community, and she stole into the woods at night. With the help of the Underground Railroad (abolitionists, freed slaves, and Quakers among the network), Harriet was able to walk the 90 miles to Philadelphia where slavery was illegal. But she did not stay satisfied with her own freedom. At great personal risk, she led at least a dozen missions. She took friends, family, and strangers from the bondage of slavery to freedom during long dark winter nights. Like Moses, she did not lose one of those she helped along the way.
During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman selflessly aided the Union’s effort by cooking, by nursing soldiers and by serving as a spy and an armed scout. As a scout she led an expedition that freed 700 slaves. After the war, she cared for her aged parents and worked for women’s suffrage until she was too ill. Dying in 1913 in the home she had established for poor and elderly former slaves, Harriet surely recognized the prophets who had gone before her. She, like Moses and John the Baptist and others, prepared people for the true promised land of heaven by treating them as God’s beloved.
Harriet Tubman is today’s Ornament of Grace.
OBSERVING THE BEAUTIFUL ORNAMENTS
What do you think motivated Harriet Tubman to continue working to free others when she herself was already free?
What prophetic mission might God be calling you to in order to lead people into greater freedom through knowing His love?