At Church of the Redeemer, we try to cling to some of the ancient, rich, valuable, and helpful traditions of the Church. So during this season, we try to enter into a little bit of “Advent” along with “Christmas.” Historically, the Church sets aside the 4 weeks before December 25 to focus on humanity’s deep longings and comprehensive need for Jesus to come into this world – including our longing for his 2nd Advent (his return). The celebration of Christmas didn’t begin until Christmas Day itself. December 25 kicked off a 12-day celebration of gift giving. (Yes, in the song, The 12 Days of Christmas, the first day is Christmas Day!) Unfortunately, in a consumer-driven society, Advent and its themes don’t exactly inspire people to break out the credit card and gleefully swipe away. People spend more when they are celebrating than they do when they are focusing on their longing for Jesus to return! So, we now start the Christmas celebration season on Black Friday and end on Christmas Day. No real Advent waiting, longing, or reflecting – mostly shopping, parties, and sugar.
This year, during Advent, we are going to consider some of the Servants of Advent in the Old and New Testament. We’ll consider how they have served us by reflecting on how and what they waited on, longed for, and focused their lives on. This Sunday (1st Sunday in Advent) and next week in our Daily Worship Devotions, we turn our attention to Isaiah, specifically his prophecy in chapter 11.
Isaiah serves us by naming our Advent longing for justice. We still have that longing, and we still have those problems. I’ve been thinking more about the corruption and the abuse of power in our society as each day brings a new revelation of those who have been abusing their power, regularly, for decades, while they have been protected by greater powers around them. It is sickening and infuriating. Is there no end to the sickness and hypocrisy of our day and age?
In Isaiah 11, God also speaks about a weakened, almost decimated, people of God. The image used is no longer a strong tree or a fruitful vine. The axe has been taken to the tree. The people of God are a stump. They once had power, influence, and respect. Now they are weak, impotent, and insignificant. Does that sound familiar or relevant? A tall and strong tree is an impressive thing: something to behold. A stump is kind of an embarrassment and an eye-sore.
Take some time to read and meditate on Isaiah 11:1-16 this week. As we prepare for the sustained sprint that is our contemporary Christmas season, take a moment to reflect on your deep longings for true justice in our world, the pain and frustration we and others bear, and our longing for Jesus to come again.
Yours in Christ’s love,