Sunday, December 25, 2022

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Advent: What does God look forward to?

While he (Joseph) considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)

This week we read what happened when Joseph learned of Mary's pregnancy. We know of Joseph's thoughts from Matthew, and of Mary's from Luke. Here we also see the Lord's thoughts through the voice of the angel: the point of all this is to save God's people from their sins. 

When I hear about saving "his people from their sins", the plural makes it easy for me to think of someone else's sins. That's human nature -- or self-preservation, if you'd rather. If we acknowledge our own faults at all, it is still easy to believe they are caused by someone else's faults. (Say what you will about Genesis 3:12's historicity, it has realism about peoples' reactions.) But what if the problem isn't your sins *or* my sins. What if it's both, and our tendency to blame each other, and the whole web of sinfulness that undermines all our human interactions? What if it's everything that keeps the world tense and fearful, hostile and distrustful? 

God's plan is to save us from all that. And whether I'm ready to acknowledge it or not, I need it deeply. 

Lord, come quickly in our day!

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Advent: Looking forward to Restoration

Looking forward to the Day of the Lord, the prophets described how all things would be restored. All things, not just the things we usually consider. Deserts would blossom. Arthritic hands and old knees would be restored. The fearful would be encouraged. Disabilities would be healed. Danger and captivity would become things of the past. All this would be brought about because of the Lord's arrival.

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,

the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,

and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the Lord,

the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,

and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,

“Be strong, do not fear!

Here is your God.

He will come with vengeance,

with terrible recompense.

He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then the lame shall leap like a deer,

and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,

and streams in the desert;

the burning sand shall become a pool,

and the thirsty ground springs of water;

the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,

the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there,

and it shall be called the Holy Way;

the unclean shall not travel on it,

but it shall be for God’s people;

no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.

No lion shall be there,

nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;

they shall not be found there,

but the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,

and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

they shall obtain joy and gladness,

and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.


Lord, come speedily in our day!

Sunday, December 04, 2022

Advent: Looking forward to safety and security

Advent is a time to focus on what is coming. It is easy to focus on problems in the world, or plans of our own. In today's lectionary reading from the prophets, Isaiah describes the days of the Lord by focusing on the ruler who is to come: 

The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

In him, justice spreads over the world. Righteousness will be the undoing of the wicked. The poor and oppressed will receive their relief. 

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;

he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

In that day, the natural order will have a complete safety even for the young: 

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

As much as this prophecy is full of hope, it did not start out with worldly power. Time and again, God starts out gentler than we would expect: 

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.

This happens when the ruler comes with the spirit of the Lord. 

May it come speedily in our day!