The beginning of the advent season takes us to Daniel 6. In the midst of the Persian Empire, diasporic Judeans struggle to maintain their fidelity to God.
The figure of Daniel has emerged as “distinguished” due to his “excellent spirit” (Daniel 6:2). Consequently, he holds a place of responsibility in the imperial court. At the same time, he is still an outsider due to his devotion to the Lord. The passage alternates between three points of view throughout the chapter.
This is a relatable moment for your community. Sometimes, our suffering comes to us quite deservedly, through poor decisions or our own neglect of God. But in this case, suffering comes completely due to the sins of others. Daniel 6 gives no indication of any anxiety, though admittedly, the text is silent in the final moments as the stone is sealed against the lion’s den. But at the end of the time, in complete darkness and the constant threat of danger, when pulled from the den, Daniel praises Darius (mocking?), then gives credit not to his own character, nor faith, but to the protective angels. This is different from the narrative voice that declares that it was Daniel’s “trust in God” (Daniel 6:23) that saved him.
But Daniel is no pushover. He also declares his own innocence before the king. The text ends with major role reversals for the three main parties:
As we enter a period of reflection on the incarnation of Christ, Daniel 6 provides three different perspectives on our own life. We may enter and examine times when we have misused our power in heinous ways like the presidents and satraps. We must examine the times when, like Darius, we refuse to stand up for injustice and remain passive and ineffectual. And we must also look at Daniel as a model for us on suffering innocence. I personally think that the Christological interpretation of Old Testament texts is way overdone in pulpits. But in this case, I believe that Daniel 6 warrants self-reflection on Christ. This will help us capture an essential part of the Advent, and prepare us for a rich season of reflection.
Christ will come again These narratives are well-known within many communities. Daniel in the lion’s den, as well as earlier narratives of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams (Daniel 2) and the story of the fiery furnace (Daniel 3). These chapters of Daniel read and teach well with memorable characters, tension and triumphant resolution. But as a note, remember that the book of Daniel weaves these narrative accounts with the more cryptic visions (Daniel 7-12) with strange creatures and mysterious symbolism. Very few venture to preach on these texts. It is worth reflecting that the weaving of these genres was deliberate, and that something about being a Judean in a vast empire would jive well with these grand apocalyptic visions in which justice comes. In this sense, Daniel 6 is particularly fitting as we think through the most famous vision in the book of Revelation. God grants us the strength to worship now, but that in the future we can anticipate the return of Christ.
Amen, Come Lord Jesus.
God of deliverance,You rescued Daniel from the mouths of the lions when he was punished for worshiping you. Liberate all who are endangered for the sake of their faith, and rescue us from anything that separates us from worshiping only you, for the sake of the one who made your name known to all people, across land and seas, Jesus Christ, our redeemer. Amen.
Creator of the stars of night ELW 245, H82 60, UMH 692, NCH 111The glory of these forty days ELW 320, Verses 3, 4, H82 143Blessed be the God of Israel ELW 250, UMH 209
We are waiting, William Paxson