Advent and Isaiah - Reflections - 11-30-16

 For the Second Sunday of Advent
12/4/16

 Hope. 
 Expectation.
 Anticipation.  Promise. 
 Yearning.
 Longing.

 Advent is all that and more.

And the Old Testament readings of Advent in two of the three lectionary years are almost completely from Isaiah.  

Isaiah, too, is all that and more.

The context of the book of Isaiah spans two centuries of Israel’s history – before, during and after their time of exile. It describes rocky relationships between Israel and Assyria then Babylon, and between Israel and God.

Throughout Israel’s history, certain people were set apart as mediators between Israel and God (think Moses in the wilderness); they were called prophets. When Israel moved from a federation of tribes to a monarchy, the kings and prophets were conversation partners. Prophets reminded kings - and the nation - of God’s plan for them, and subtly, or not so subtly, reminded them that God was in charge. In today’s words, prophets provided “checks and balances” to the monarch and/or they “spoke truth to power”.  

And the truth spoken by Isaiah is that God’s people had gone too far. You might say that they couldn’t put the genie back in the bottle; consequences for their rebellion were unfolding and could not be avoided.  But Isaiah also offered hope. Hope of a compassionate God. Hope for new beginnings. Hope for peace and justice to guide them.  This word of hope was given to God’s people at that time. This word was also passed along through generations so God’s people of the future could experience hope.

The early Christians felt that hope when they met Jesus.  They read those powerful words from Isaiah with new eyes and realized how God’s compassion had reached out over the centuries to them.  

This coming Sunday, 12/4/16, Gloria Dei’s Advent Lessons and Carols service focuses on passages from Isaiah. And at each of our mid-week Advent services (Thursdays at 6:30 pm) we will hear a reading from Isaiah. God’s compassion still reaches out over the centuries to us.

Advent is time we watch and wait for God. Isaiah reveals important marks of God’s presence: God desires peace and justice; our God is compassionate and merciful; God offers hope and new beginnings; God’s plan is for all people - I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. ( Isaiah 49:6)

Hope. Expectation.
Anticipation. Promise. 
Yearning. Longing.

Advent is all that and more.

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Written by Pam Larabee-Zierath


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