Monday, December 1, 2014

Advent Day 2

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken --Isaiah 52:7-10

Advent is always a very welcome part of my year. It’s my favorite church season, eclipsing even Christmas with its greenery, cheerful bows, and familiar music, and Easter with its joyous Alleluias, exuberant flower arrangements and unsuppressed joy. Advent is a quiet season, one very much like being pregnant; there’s a feeling of expectation and a lot of inward thought. What better way to start this season than with one of the most familiar parts of Isaiah’s prophecy, words that also are contained in the first aria of Handel’s an oratorio most frequently performed during this season.

Isaiah spoke to those in exile, reminding them that one day things were going to be different. The difficult would be made easy and the rough places evened out. They will have paid the full measure of repentance for their transgressions, would be redeemed and see all of God’s glory revealed to them. That’s a really hopeful message to take through Advent.

The captives returned from their exiles and, for a while, things were good. Then they did what was so maddeningly human—they started to slide back again into what had gotten them in trouble in the first place. On Sundays we rededicate ourselves to a better path but usually by Monday morning things are pretty much the way they were before. The world hasn’t changed because we haven’t changed. We’ve forgotten what we were supposed to do and instead concentrated on what was best for us, never mind anyone else.

Never mind that there are still poor people who need help, diseased and crippled people who need medical care and therapy, children who go hungry in a land where waste is abundant, and strangers and aliens are considered to be threats or undesirables. The lessons of the Messiah that we claim to follow don’t seem to sink in, although we hear them in church every week and read them in our daily devotions.

Maybe this Advent we can focus more on helping to make the crooked straight and the rough places plain for those who seem stuck trying to climb mountains that seem to only get taller and steeper. More than just putting a present or two under the church Angel Trees or going caroling at the retirement community for an hour or so, maybe we can find small things that would mean so much to those who so desperately need some hope and good cheer this coming holiday season.

We are all part of the kingdom. What small gifts can we give, not necessarily items wrapped in glittery paper with shiny bows, but small acts of kindness that might bring a smile to a face that has almost forgotten how good a smile can feel? Those small things are kingdom work. It’s what Jesus has asked us to do.

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