New Math – Advent Reflections part 3

photo credit: Monstera @

from Rev. Dr. Heather H. Lear, Vice President for Grant Administration

When COVID-19 shut down the schools in my state, I found myself serving as the “stand-in” algebra teacher for my 12-year old son. As the days went by, I realized there is something comforting in mathematics. You can check your answers and have certainty in the work. During a period when uncertainty reigned with no end in sight, the certainty of following a process and checking for right answers was a gift.

So much of our lives are grounded in a kind of math, formula, or logic. We are told that if you follow these steps, do the right things, your reward is waiting. Sometimes that pans out – sometimes not. This tallying and linear thinking can also be applied to our interactions with God. The Christian faith is often presented as easy math, simple transactions. If you agree to these statements, you’ll have eternal peace. Give money to this cause and you’ll be “#blessed.” Pray a little harder and your pain will go away, your wish will be granted.

But this isn’t consistent with God’s character or with what Jesus taught and modeled. The formula breaks down because life is hard, we struggle, and the fairness scale is unbalanced.

There’s no math that makes sense when we consider God’s unconditional love and grace. It’s so extravagant that we can never earn it and it’s definitely not what we deserve. As we prepare for the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, we are reminded that God doesn’t operate in our neat and tidy formulaic ways.

Today, I pray that we can move from thinking we need to do more to earn our place and instead, learn to swim in a sea of God’s grace. Amen.

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