URC Daily Devotion Sunday 17th December 2023

Sunday 17th December 2023
O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
O Wisdom,
coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Sirach 24: 1 – 12, 19-22

Wisdom praises herself,
    and tells of her glory in the midst of her people.
In the assembly of the Most High she opens her mouth,
    and in the presence of his hosts she tells of her glory:
‘I came forth from the mouth of the Most High,
    and covered the earth like a mist.
I dwelt in the highest heavens,
    and my throne was in a pillar of cloud.
Alone I compassed the vault of heaven
    and traversed the depths of the abyss.
Over waves of the sea, over all the earth,
    and over every people and nation I have held sway.
Among all these I sought a resting-place;
    in whose territory should I abide?

‘Then the Creator of all things gave me a command,
    and my Creator chose the place for my tent.
He said, “Make your dwelling in Jacob,
    and in Israel receive your inheritance.”
Before the ages, in the beginning, he created me,
    and for all the ages I shall not cease to be.
In the holy tent I ministered before him,
    and so I was established in Zion.
Thus in the beloved city he gave me a resting-place,
    and in Jerusalem was my domain.
I took root in an honoured people,
    in the portion of the Lord, his heritage…

‘Come to me, you who desire me,
    and eat your fill of my fruits.
For the memory of me is sweeter than honey,
    and the possession of me sweeter than the honeycomb.
Those who eat of me will hunger for more,
    and those who drink of me will thirst for more.
Whoever obeys me will not be put to shame,
    and those who work with me will not sin.’


Where does society look for wisdom? Influencers on TikTok and Instagram? Glossy magazines and newspaper columnists? Politicians perhaps? 

Today’s antiphon’s mention of “prudence” stokes memories of the hope many voters felt in the late 1990s as Iron Chancellor Gordon Brown focused on “prudence with a purpose” in his early budgets – attempts at fiscal discipline to fund social change that feel like a distant memory amid the chaos that’s consumed politics since 2016.

In today’s passage, Ben Sira pictures wisdom as a woman in a series of poetic verses that allude to everything from Genesis and Exodus to Job and the Psalms. One of the few early Jewish authors to identify themselves, Ben Sira’s positive portrayal of wisdom as a gift from God contrasts with much of his other writing around 180 BCE in Ecclesiasticus or The Wisdom of Jesus, Son of Sirach, which Martin Luther excluded from Protestant Bibles. 

As theologian Benjamin Wright put it in The New Oxford Annotated Bible: “Like all ancient literature, the Wisdom of Ben Sira is a product of its time. His views on women, children, and slaves, especially, reflect that time period – views that modern readers will not generally share.”

Where do Christians look for wisdom? To settle quarrels and divisions, Paul tells the church at Corinth not to focus on their differences but on what unites them – the “foolishness” of the cross, of God coming to Earth as Jesus, of dying to wash away our sins, and of rising again to give us eternal life: “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” [1 Corinthians 1:25] 

For me, that message about God’s selfless love for all of us sounds like the perfect antidote to our society’s selfish obsession with material gain, trumpeted on social media and in glossy magazines. With only eight shopping days left until Christmas, that sounds like a wise and prudent present to share with our relatives, friends, neighbours, and even enemies.


God of wisdom,
please fill us with words about your love 
to share with our relatives and friends and neighbours and enemies.
Please guide us through your Holy Spirit, 
so that we know when to share these words. 
Please give us the energy we need 
to demonstrate your love through our actions.
And please make us prudent with our resources, 
so that we can be extravagant – like you – 
in sharing your love through our words and actions.
In the name of Christ, Amen.


Today’s writer

Peter Ranscombe is a locally-recognised lay preacher at Saughtonhall United Reformed Church in Edinburgh.


New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Copyright © 2023 United Reformed Church, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you have subscribed to the Daily Devotions from the United Reformed Church. You can unsubscribe by clicking on the link below.

Our mailing address is:

United Reformed Church

86 Tavistock Place

London, WC1H 9RT

United Kingdom

Add us to your address book