December 16, 2017

Advent I—Fervent in Hope

By Chaplain Mike

Text for Advent I—Isaiah 2:1-5

On each Sunday of Advent, we light a candle on the Advent Wreath, gradually turning darkness to light to mark the coming of Jesus. There is no universal liturgy attached to the candlelighting, but this year we will follow a common way of expressing its significance.

The first candle represents Hope. In lighting it, we acknowledge that the ultimate hope for our lives and our world lies in God’s promise of a new creation that he himself will bring.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

The words of the ancient Latin hymn recall our longing that these promises be fulfilled. Its verses cry out for:

  • Return from exile under the oppression of the enemy
  • Universal knowledge of the Lord and a world shaped by his wisdom
  • Deliverance from death, the grave, and hell
  • Release from darkness, sadness, gloom, and misery
  • Subjection of all earthly powers to God’s merciful rule
  • Healing of all divisions so that humankind may be one

These appeals are addressed to Emmanuel (“God with us”), the Rod of Jesse, the Dayspring from on high, the Key of David, the mighty Lord and Lawgiver who revealed himself at Sinai, the Root of Jesse, the Desire of Nations. All these evocative titles arose originally from the mouths and pens of God’s people who lived in the days recorded in the Tanakh or First Testament.

Their story was characterized by a recurring pattern of creation, rebellion, exile, and salvation. The climactic outworking of this pattern saw the Jewish nation forcibly removed from their land and resettled in Babylon, where they suffered the loss of every tangible sign of their identity—kingdom, land, holy city, temple, priesthood, sacrifice, etc. Bereft of everything else, the words of God’s promises took on new significance. And even though they eventually returned to the land, it was clear that much of their future hope still awaited fulfillment.

The conditions envisioned in promises like those given Isaiah in today’s text were certainly not yet in place.

  • The nations had not submitted themselves to the rule of the one true and living God.
  • People were not streaming to Jerusalem to learn of God and his ways.
  • God’s justice was not filling the earth so that oppression had ceased.
  • Conflict wore on and peace did not reign in all hearts and among all peoples.

And so they cried out for God to come, to hear their cries, to take note of their misery, to bring about the new creation he had promised.

In Advent we join them. Of course, we do so from a different vantage point—for Christ has come. Through him, God launched his “D-Day” invasion on enemy-held territory and broke the back of the opposing forces. God’s Kingdom gained a firm foothold in this world through the decisive finished work of Christ, and ultimate victory is sure. Nevertheless, we have not marked “V-Day” yet. Victory has not yet been consummated and new creation has not fully emerged. The battle goes on and we continue to lament, cry out, and persevere in hope.

However, this is not all. The final words of today’s text remind us that this hope is active: O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”

God’s promises for the future provide our agenda for today. This text calls those saved by God’s grace in Christ to tell the Good News of God’s Kingdom, to live and share his wisdom, to work for justice for the poor and oppressed, to be peacemakers in a world of strife.

Prayer for Advent I—

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection save us from the threatening dangers of our sins, and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Isaiah, Michelangelo

Isaiah 2:1-5 (NRSV)—

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

O house of Jacob,
come, let us walk
in the light of the Lord!

Comments

  1. I guess hope is expectancy, fulfillment and expectancy again, as here is the other end of the story:

    I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe … [a]nd God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Ephesians 1:18-23