Today we hear from the apocalyptic book of Daniel. Most of us will automatically think of Daniel and the lions’ den, but this is the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the fiery furnace.
Now, you might think that this is a strange reading for the beginning of Advent, and I’d probably agree with you, but it is the reading set down in the narrative lectionary that we are following. However, if you think about the story, the loyalty that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego show to God and their trust and ultimate blessing from this situation, there is quite a bit of the coming of Advent to be found.
These men hold true to their faith even though they were in a foreign country – and were considered to be enemies by some. As we heard last week from Jeremiah, these men had become part of the community. They worked well and hard for the leaders of Babylon- just as Jeremiah had encouraged them to- but they would not give up worshiping their God, and only their God. That’s what got them into trouble.
So they are punished for their trust and obedience to their God, and thrown into the fire to certain death and darkness. But that’s not what happens. The light of the fire shows King Nebuchadnezzar the strength and ability of the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. God’s promise of always being with the Hebrew people is shown, in the fire, in the presence of the one who protects the men. The God of these men is truly powerful!
The king proclaims that none shall speak against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego for there is no other god able to deliver in this way. Nebuchadnezzar then promotes the men in their positions. They have been blessed and their trust in God confirmed. They show the rest of the Hebrew people the hope that God will not forsake them and will be with them always, echoing what we heard from Jeremiah last week.
This is what Advent is all about. Advent is a time of preparation, a time of anticipation for the coming of God to earth, Immanuel, the gift of Jesus given to us that shows the love of God.
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