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Advent day 18: Stomping through the stubble

12.20. 2017 Posted By: The Mennonite

Kay Bontrager-Singer is co-pastor of Faith Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana.  She is a “farm girl” turned social worker/pastor and mother of three sons, along with a few extras who call her “mom.” She is an avid gardener, enjoying the sensation of rich garden soil under her feet.

Reflections on Malachi 3:16-4:6

the cut stalks of grain plants left sticking out of the ground after the grain is harvested.
synonyms: stalks, straw
“a field of stubble”

Of all the poetic words that could have caught my attention in this text rich with beautiful imagery, it would be the word stubble.  Why not “the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing on its wings?” But stubble it is.

Maybe it is because I know the sensation of stubble under my bare feet.  As a Kansas farm girl, I can still feel the sharp, prickly wheat stubble underfoot as I trudged through the recently cut grain to deliver a jug of cold water to my father driving the combine. Wearing shoes never crossed my mind. Toughening up my feet was part of every summer ritual.

Malachi declares the arrogance of evil doers is like stubble. Some days as I observe the world around me, I have the uncomfortable sensation of walking barefoot through a field of stubble. It is painful to see and feel the many ways that evil manifests itself in our world: gun violence, racism, destruction of our environment, sexual harassment of women, only to name a few.

Part of the promise given in Malachi 4:3 involves treading on those stubbles, which have now turned to ashes under foot. For the Lord of hosts says, “See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and evil doers will be stubble…and you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet.” Our part involves close, intimate contact with evil which isn’t comfortable or without its share of suffering.

With our bodies, we confront evil. We shouldn’t be surprised by this tactile metaphor, for God came to us embodied, entering into direct contact with the evil of this world.  During Advent we are reminded how God chose to be embodied in Jesus, entering into the world, as all babies do, barefoot.

Ah, the delight to gaze on a tiny newborn’s feet! We memorialize them by pressing the soles of their feet onto an ink pad, making a print to be tucked away in a baby book, so as not to be forgotten.

When Jesus was walking the dusty roads of Palestine, we know the stories of his feet being washed, kissed and anointed with oil. Later, nails were pounded through his feet to hold him fast to an executioner’s cross. As his mother looked on, did she think about the tiny feet that once belonged to her son, now bleeding and broken?

In Jesus, we are shown the way to walk, barefoot, trampling down the stubbles without the benefit of comfortable New Balance walking shoes to protect us from pain or suffering. Is this trampling in vain?  No, we are promised a day when righteousness will have the final word, when evil is burnt to ashes under our feet and we shall go out frolicking like calves let out to pasture.

May it be so.

Read previous Advent reflections and sign up to receive our 2017 daily Advent devotionals in your e-mail inbox. 

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