Reading through Isaiah in Advent provides some breathtaking moments.
Yes, there is also some thick slogging: any number of passages are filled with ancient history and unfamiliar names.
But scattered throughout the book’s 66 chapters are some of the most beautiful, inspiring, hope-filled moments in all of Scripture.
Some of them are familiar as can be. Handel’s “Messiah” and the Revised Common Lectionary make sure a lot of us hear them regularly.
Others, though, are tucked away, almost in secret, waiting for us to stumble on them. We just have to stick with the prophet and avoid being lulled into inattention as we push through the ancient history and politics.
Some give peeks into God’s character:
Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:18)
Some lift the curtain on how God looks at his people:
A pleasant vineyard, sing about it! I, the Lord, am its keeper; every moment I water it. I guard it night and day so that no one can harm it; I have no wrath. (Isaiah 27:2b-4a)
Yes, I have wrenched these bits from their context. There are things we’ll understand only by studying that context, with its history and politics.
But sometimes it is by picking up the plant, and shaking off the soil, that I can see something about its roots. The roots reveal the nature of the plant.
Here the plant is God’s character and God’s intention.
God is waiting for us this Advent, with the same character he had as he waited for ancient Israel: Longing to be gracious. Waiting without wrath. Ever full of mercy.
God is waiting for us this Advent, with the same intention he had as he waited for ancient Israel: Working to protect and nurture life. Working to bring about real peace, real justice.
Isaiah said some bad stuff was going to happen–but always he also spoke a promise of hope, with God’s full authority.
Bad stuff happens in our time too. And it will surely happen again. It looks grim,
until a spirit from on high is poured out on us, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” (Isaiah 31:15-18)
May you know the hope of Christ’s peace. In a world where the poor still endure hunger, and whole peoples suffer oppression for the most irrational reasons, I pray for you the hope of growth and flourishing in the shelter of God’s protection.
That is to say, I pray for you, this Advent, that your waiting will be blessed with the coming of Jesus.
I would love to hear from you in the comments: What signs of Christ’s peace have you seen?
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