Vinegar is a highly acidic liquid. Milk is a base liquid. When you combine the two, it causes a chemical, neutralization reaction. Almost instantly, the proteins in milk (called casein) lump together. If you planned on drinking the milk you’ll discover it has soured and is no longer palatable. You might end up throwing it out because it is useless as a drink. But, this concoction is not entirely worthless. The combination is an excellent replacement if you want to bake a batch of delicious buttermilk biscuits. What was on the one hand considered awful, ruined and without use can become a vital ingredient in creating something worth eating (if you like biscuits).
We look at people around us who make horrible, awful choices for their lives and shake our heads. In our estimation, their lives are ruined, without merit, useless. We don’t think they can be redeemed or ever change their trajectory. Their sins have become like vinegar. However, if given the right circumstances and encouragement and hope their lives can be restored and become useful.
In the Bible we read the story of the woman who was caught in the act of adultery. We can assume, this was not the first time she had participated in the act and she was well-known in the area. An angry crowd drags this woman (not the man) and throws her down at Jesus’ feet. “This woman is an adulteress and the law says she is to be stoned,” exclaim the Pharisees in the crowd. “What do you say?” Jesus pauses, stoops down and scribbles in the sand, and then says, “Whoever is without sin cast the first stone.” Of course, given those parameters no one could accuse her and the crowd dispersed. Jesus then takes her by the hand and, instead of berating her for her sin, he tells her, “Go and sin no more.”
This woman’s life could have been destroyed by the “vinegar” of her sins but instead her life was changed and we assume she lived a completely new life after her encounter with Christ. Instead of throwing people away because their lives have become curdled and spoiled, we need to embrace them and show them how their lives have value and how they can become useful and new. We aren’t called to be judges; we are called to be healers and restorers of spoiled lives.
Remember–every one of us has been touched with the “vinegar” of sin. Not one of us is unspoiled. All our lives have been curdled by our choices. But, we have been forgiven, redeemed, and have been given the hope that our lives can be used for something good. Let us extend the same redemption and hope to those who are hurting around us who feel their lives are too spoiled to be changed. Let’s make some biscuits instead of throwing out sour milk.
Luke 2:33 “The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.”
Has something utterly amazing happened in your life and at the moment it occurred you experienced overwhelming joy and happiness? How long did it take for the feeling to fade away? When a new challenge presented itself in your life and you forgot about the awesome event you experienced?
Mary and Joseph were no different than we are. Here were two individuals, each approached by the angel Gabriel, and told the most incredible news–they would be the parents and caretaker of the anticipated Messiah. In Luke 1:46-55, Mary proclaims her astonishment and wonder that God has chosen her, above all women, to be the mother of the Messiah. Joseph is struggling with the fact of Mary’s pregnancy but when Gabriel approaches him and tells him she is pregnant with the savior of the world he immediately embraces the responsibility of being the earthly father of our Lord. How much more amazing can that be? Yet, we see throughout the story of Jesus’ life with his parents they forgot who they were raising.
Just a month or so after Jesus’ birth, they went to Jerusalem for the rite of purification required of all Jewish women who have given birth. An elderly man, named Simeon, approaches them as they enter the temple courtyard. God had promised he wouldn’t die until he saw the redeemer of Israel. Simeon takes the infant Jesus into his arms and proclaims wondrous things about him–he will cause many to rise and fall in Israel, he will be the sign Jewish people will reject because he doesn’t fit their ideal of a Messiah, and because of her son Mary’s heart will be pierced as if with a sword.
The account in Luke does not tell us Mary and Joseph just accepted Simeon’s words with a knowing understanding. No, it says they were “amazed, or marveled, by all they heard”. Two people, visited by an angel, told specifically they would be the parents of the promised Messiah of Israel and they “marveled” at the things they heard. How quickly they forgot the divine and holy nature of the birth of their son. Just a few months old and, to them, he was just a baby boy born under fantastic circumstances. Throughout his life, we see how many times his mother in particular forgets her son is not like other young men: When he is “lost” in Jerusalem in a discourse with priests about his Father, God, and when she goes with his brothers and begs him to stop his ministry because she has heard rumors about plots against his life. The very miracle of the Virgin Birth is a shadow in her past–how quickly she has forgotten whose son he truly is.
During this Christmas season let’s reflect on the miracles God has performed in our lives and consider how quickly their impact has faded into the memories of our past. We can read the story of Mary and Joseph, from a distance, and see the full scope but we can also look at our own lives and contemplate the meaning. How often have we forgotten what God has done? How can we incorporate the blessings in our lives to make a positive change in the lives of others? Let us remember, during this season of joy, the true and divine gift given to us and let us not forget the One who sent him.