(Firstly an apology for the lack of daily posts – the virus I’ve got has proved more overwhelming than expected. I will do my best to catch up again, although my Advent posts may end up lasting the whole of December to do so. Thanks for waiting).
‘Whither thou goest, I will go;
and where thou lodgest, I will lodge:
thy people shall be my people,
and thy God my God:
1Where thou diest, will I die,
and there will I be buried:
the Lord do so to me, and more also,
if ought but death part thee and me.’
The best man at my cousin’s wedding read these words. They’re amazing, aren’t they? A wonderful declaration of true lifelong commitment, perfect for a wedding.
Except they weren’t a promise between a husband a wife at all. These words were said by a widowed daughter in law to her foreign mother in law. (And I’m not even sure if she still technically counted as a daughter in law having been widowed).
I wonder how many of us could make such a commitment to our in laws?
Famine sent Naomi and her husband from their home in the House of Grain, or Bethlehem as we know it better. How ironic. And bereavement, the deaths of her husband and both her sons, sent her back. But this time she wasn’t alone. Her daughter in law, Ruth, gave up her own family and religion and the hope of finding a new husband back there, to accompany her. Naomi felt that God had abandoned her – Ruth, by her words and actions, proved that He hadn’t.
Back in Bethlehem, the whole story revolves around grain: how Ruth found first food and then a new husband by gathering up the leftovers at harvest and making an overnight assignation at the threshing floor. It’s a pastoral idyll, a Biblical Tess of the D’Ubervilles only with a happy ending.
And so we remember Bethlehem, the House of Grain, at Advent. In particular, we remember Ruth, the great grandmother of King David and ancestor to Jesus. But let’s remember even more that lifelong commitment of love that she made. Who needs us to show that God hasn’t abandoned them?