River with Rushes
1 After this there went a man of the house of Levi; and took a wife of his own kindred. 2 And she conceived, and bore a son; and seeing him a goodly child hid him three months. 3 And when she could hide him no longer, she took a basket made of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and pitch: and put the little babe therein, and laid him in the sedges by the river’s brink, 4 His sister standing afar off, and taking notice what would be done. 5 And behold the daughter of Pharao came down to wash herself in the river: and her maids walked by the river’s brink. And when she saw the basket in the sedges, she sent one of her maids for it: and when it was brought,
6 She opened it and seeing within it an infant crying, having compassion on it she said: This is one of the babes of the Hebrews.
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Moses was not supposed to live. The Israelites were too many, and the Pharaoh didn’t remember all that Joseph had done, so he viewed them as the enemy. Every male child was killed, and then every male child after that was to be killed at birth. But Moses’ parents hid him from the Egyptians and kept him a secret. For three months, this worked, but then he couldn’t be hidden in the house any longer.
Miriam, Moses’ sister, was a smart girl. She kept watch over the basket from a distance, and when Pharaoh’s daughter found him, she felt pity. She wasn’t willing to kill this little child now that she could see him. Who knows if she cared much about the plight of the Hebrew babies before that, but when she saw him, her heart just melted. She knew he was Hebrew, but wanted to keep him as her own, anyway. Miriam, thinking quickly, stepped out of the brush near the river and offered to find someone to nurse the little boy, for there were plenty Hebrew women who could do that. Miriam’s quick thinking meant that Moses (named by Pharaoh’s daughter) could be openly cared for by his own mother.
Very often, we hear of bad news and tragedies, but it’s hard for us to really grasp it. We can’t think about the individual people who lose homes in wildfires or who lose loved ones in a building collapse or who even lose family to cancer. I know that I often pray for those people, but it’s difficult to really internalize the problems and pain of others.
It’s difficult, that is, until I meet someone face-to-face who is in that predicament. That’s when it becomes real.
Sometimes, it’s important to bring ourselves face-to-face with someone who is in need, and to see that person as a human being with inherent dignity. We can’t all go help after natural disasters or go to mission territory and help the souls in war-torn countries. But most of us can help someone right in front of us. In this season of Advent, don’t turn away from the homeless. Reach out and help them, even if you can’t be sure how they’ll use your money. (I know of some people who create care packages with warm socks, chapstick, granola bars, etc. to give to the homeless along with a gift card to McDonald’s or something.) But more than that, make actual contact with them. Touch them, shake their hands. Talk to them a little and ask their names. A friend of mind said that she spoke at length to a homeless man who said that he’s glad when people help with money or gift cards, but people try hard not to make physical contact. And almost no one asks their names.
Can you imagine people trying to avoid touching you? Never hearing another human being speak your name with affection?
This Advent, keep some food or gift cards or a care package or two in your car, and make contact with one of the homeless people you see begging. Give them, for a few moments, a chance to be treated like a real human being who is valuable.
Because they are, in God’s eyes. They are unique and irreplaceable human beings of inestimable worth.
Meditation text and images © Christine Johnson