On this third Advent Sunday, let us reflect on the hope we proclaim as people of God. Isaiah 35 depicts this hope powerfully. The passage interrupts the devastation and despair in the previous passage by speaking a word out of place.
The wilderness and the dry land is glad.
The desert rejoices and blossoms;
Like the crocus it blossoms abundantly,
And rejoices with joy and singing
The glory of Lebanon is given to it
The majesty of Carmel and Sharon
The glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God is on display.
This message could not be more opposite from the message of Isaiah 34. This prophetic utterance is a word out of place. It is a word that refuses to wait until things are better like in Isa 40. Israel’s doxology is characteristically against data says Walter Brueggemann.
Our world today is characterized by devastating data; evening news that reports a murder in our neighborhoods, newspaper front page that has pictures of devastation and loss of life, not to mention the ubiquitous social networks. Add to that the data of our own lives: mourning the death of a loved one, anxiously waiting the test results, struggles with depression, relational difficulties, painful anniversaries, worrying about employment, health care etc. We know the data all too well but advent announces and portrays through lit candles a word that defies that data. God is coming to us!
Advent calls us to look forward to the time when God will set all of things right, a time that has already began. It is the good news that those who suffer “shall obtain joy and gladness and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isa. 35:10). Advent proclaims transformation! This is good news for all people and it is the good news that we proclaim in our Christmas carols, Joy to the world the lord is come!!
Psalm 146 spells it out pretty clearly: God comes to set things right—to execute justice, to feed the hungry, to set captives free, to lift up the burdened, and watch over the immigrants (Ps. 146:7-9). What I find to be amazing is that God does all this through God’s people!
When God’s people are faithful in their calling; the hungry are fed, the prisoners are set free, the blind receive their sight, those who are bowed down are lifted up, the “strangers” or resident immigrants have someone to watch over them, and the widows and orphans are supported. God’s work of setting things right consists of concrete steps that transforms lives and makes the world a better place. This is what missions is all about.
In Advent we’re looking forward to something better than the injustice and violence and suffering all around us. We’re looking forward while living and embodying hope here and now. We are looking forward to the kindness and generosity and compassion of our God which is also being fulfilled imperfectly through us.
Today the advent hope is captured well in the words of Mary commonly known as the magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior” Why? “Because the Lord looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant…now all generations will call her blessed for the mighty one had done grate things for her. Mary’s soul “made mega” the Lord, she spirit rejoiced in God. This is an expression or a revolution, What God was doing in Mary, God was doing also for Israel and indeed for the whole world.
Scholar G. B Caird writes, “As in many of the Old Testament psalms the psalmist passes quite naturally from his individual concerns to those of the nation for which he is spokesman, so here Mary sings of her own exaltation from lowliness to greatness as typical of the new order which is to open out for the whole people of God through the coming of her son.” He continues, “She uses the past tense (vv. 51-55 cf. v.68), not to describe God’s past care for the down-trodden, but because God has already taken decisive action in the promised sending of his son, and foresees as an accomplished fact the results that will follow in his mission.” So Mary proclaims the original revolution to be brought about by her son, it is that same revolution that the church the body of Christ carries forward. Jesus said, as the Father has sent me so I send you (John 20:21). God has called your church and EMM as agents of transformation and we seek to be faithful in our calling. We are looking forward to greater partnership in God’s mission. Surely, the Lord has great things for us and for the world! We represent and live that hope right here and now even as we continue to await the fulfillment of the second advent.