Sunday, November 27, 2016


So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.  When they came together, the LORD made her conceive, and she bore a son . . . They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.  Ruth 4:13, 17b

When I was growing up, and the time rolled around, I always dreaded the first day of school.  We would sit in class and the teacher would start calling the roll.  When my name was called, there was always this moment of silence.  Then came, "Are you Mike's brother?  Are you Barbara's brother?"  And I would give a quick nod or a simple answer that yes, Mike and/or Barb was my older sibling, and the teacher would move on.  And so it went, year after year.  When I graduated and prepared to go off to college, I couldn't wait.  Finally, I thought I would be on my own, finally I would be out of the shadows of other folks.  And it lasted for awhile, about six years in fact.  Until I went back to our hometown to work, and whenever I would meet someone new, and told them my name, there was always a moment of silence.  Then would come, "Are you Steve's brother?  Are you James' brother?"
referring to my younger siblings.

I wonder if that was how Jesse felt at times.  When he became an adult, he apparently was quite successful as a sheep owner, a rancher, farmer.  He had a large and prosperous family.  He was known for his faith, and his pious ways, so much that, according to rabbinic tradition, he was one of four people to die without sin.  Yet in all those years, he was probably simply known best as being the grandson of the saintly Ruth, the generous Boaz.  And then, in his most successful years, when he should have been best known for who he was, he became identified as the father of David, the greatest king of Israel.  Talk about living in deep shadows.

We all have lived in someone else's shadow at some point in our lives.  Maybe it was family members, a partner, a boss, a professor, a coach.  We know what it feels like to be noticed, not for who we are or what we might accomplish, but for the gifts, the lives, the achievements of those around us.  Does it make us more aware of those around us who live in the shadows today?  Do we notice those who are forgotten simply because someone else is better remembered?  Do we see the persons who are longing for someone to look past the star of the show and see the stage crew, the ticket takers, the parking attendants?  Can we look beyond the glitter of the season and recognize those who live in the grimy streets around us?

Prayer:  Help us to search the shadows for your children, God of Advent, so we may take them by the hand, bring them into the light of hope and grace, honor them for their gifts, and recognize them for who they are as your beloved child.  Amen.

(c) 2016 Thom M. Shuman

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