9th Day of Christmas

by Matthew B. Harper

In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ (Jeremiah 23:6)

There is no one without sin, says Paul, no one who is righteous. And I don’t know of a church where that is more clear than on any given Sunday night here in prison. If there was a gift that comes from prison faith, it is that it is grounded in the sure knowledge of our total unworthiness, and the sure knowledge of God’s loving graciousness.

I received a letter from a friend who lives in Texas yesterday. An ex-con herself, she and her husband work full-time and also minister to over 75 inmates around the country as part of the motorcycle ministry that they ride with. She is a woman devoted to God and ministry, and in her letter she thanked me for being such a blessing to her. Talk like that makes me uncomfortable.

If I were a man who thought myself righteous I could pat myself on the back and say “Of course, after all – don’t you know who I am?!” But the problem is that I do know exactly who I am. I live with me. I know all of my failings, my thoughts, my regrets, my wrongs, my sins. I am very unrighteous. And yet I trust my sister when she is telling me that she has been blessed through our friendship as much as I am.

To that there is only one response. If it isn’t me, and she would deny it is her, then it must be God. My only response can then become: “Of course, after all – don’t you know who God Is?!”

God chooses us, God loves us. God doesn’t just bless us, God uses us to bless others. I am not righteous, but God is. Praise be to God.

Sing, O sing, this blessed morn, unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, God himself comes down from heaven. Sing O sing, this blessed morn, Jesus Christ today is born. (Hymn 88)

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