Then Isaiah said: ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.
Isaiah’s words are to King Ahaz in Jerusalem. Ahaz is a ruler who neglects God and makes idolatrous choices that gravely endanger his people. Isaiah utters these words to him from within the context of an unstable time – the powerful take as they desire, the poor become pawns of the wealthy, threats of violence persist from outside nations, there is a loss of faith in God and distrust of one another, injustice rules the day. Sound familiar?
Despite the dire circumstances…the seed of God’s promise is given. In our Christian story this seed is fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. Immanuel. God With Us. It is a bold promise to speak into corrupt and oppressive realities. Jesus’ time, like Isaiah’s, and like ours, was deeply troubled. Yet none of this deters the promise of God from entering the world. Not in Isaiah’s time, not in Jesus’ time, and not in ours either.
The promise is for Immanuel. God with us. All of us.
May this seed take root in our bodies, our neighborhoods and all of creation.
May we embrace and participate in the new life this promise offers.
Jesus didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!
This translation of Romans comes from the Message bible. I love how it dives into a deeper explanation of this text. It prompted me to reflect on things in my life that correspond with this verse.
First – the therapeutic nature of music. I am a third year music therapy major which means that I am building my life around the virtue of placing myself near the troubles of others. My profession is built around caring for others more than myself, in a healthy manner. With that being said I will “take on the troubles of the troubled.”
Second – the calling and the waiting. We never know what God is going to do next, but all we can do is have hope. Hope has always had a very special meaning to me. Whenever I hear that word, it reminds me of something I once read: “H.O.P.E. Hold On, Pain Ends.” No matter how long we wait, everything will be okay in the end.
Regardless of what God calls us to do, we will sing in harmony with not only our voices but our lives as well. Our song can be one of hope because God promises to be with us in our professions, our joys and our troubles.
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.
In God there is hope.
Isaiah 35:5-7 My favorite season is spring. Why? Because so much has happened in the wintertime; under the ground life is hibernating, transitioning, and getting ready to spring forward. Even before signs of spring are all around, there is a sense of excitement, possibility, hope. Soon there will be little signs of life popping up through the dark and wet ground, reaching for the sky and new life.
The book of Isaiah is full of both caution and promise. In Isaiah 35:5-7 the prophet foretells the possibility of what happens when the promises of God are revealed. As humans, we forget and do not always believe it, we are caught up in the hurt and pain that keeps our eyes covered and our ears closed. Yet – there is a breakthrough from winter to spring, a possibility that brings hope to the dry deserts and sight to those who have lost their way. We are reminded of the miracles of God, and there are so many metaphors for our lives in the present day. In God there is hope.
God will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense.
God will come and save you.’
A few years ago, when I was playing defense during my soccer game, I twisted and heard something in my knee. I knew something was wrong and I hobbled off the field. Luckily it wasn’t a tear and was a cyst, but I did need to take time off. With that time off of soccer, I learned more about how to strengthen my knee and the muscles around it, how to listen to my body about what I could do or what needed to wait. I found a new connection with my body that was deeply embodied.
God has given us this beautiful, holy body that so many of us are fearful of. We are taught to be fearful of our own body or certain kinds of bodies or ways to be in our bodies. Advent is a time to notice and listen to our own bodies as God chose to show up with us and among us in a human body through Jesus. By connecting with our bodies we can be reminded who we are and whose we are. With that reminder, we can show up for each other in ways that are rooted and with open hands and hearts for each other. Ellen Weber
[Christ Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the f irstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Environmental degradation is evident all around us. We are on course to increase the planet’s temperature by almost 2°F by 2030 which will have devastating results. Our lives are fragile and dependent upon the wellbeing of the planet. During Advent, we not only wait for our own redemption, we also long for the redemption of the entire cosmos. In the fragile, dependent, weak, and defenseless infant Jesus, we come to see the invisible God in God’s entire fullness. This is miraculous! But, not only do we find God in the infant Jesus, we also find all things on heaven and on earth. In this infant Jesus, the invisible God is united with the visible and invisible creation. This newborn baby embodies both the divine and the cosmos. In Jesus, that which is considered “not God” is drawn into one body with God. This is a season for telling this story Jesus. But Jesus is not the reason for this season. The redemption of our entire cosmos is the reason for this season. Jeremy Myers
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 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.
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 Hebrew, Jesse means “God’s gift” or “God exists.” This passage revealed to me that God is inside me and God is growing. That his spirit has roots that are growing deep and branches that are stretching out of me. That as God grows within me so does God’s wisdom, knowledge and understanding naturally flow more potently through me. I feel a presence of deep adoration, a humbleness, and awe. As my relationship with God grows- how I see and hear the world emerges through this relationship. God exists and is emerging in everyone around me; I just need to have the eyes to see. This is sometimes challenging, especially when we live in a chaotic and despondent world.
I pray that we remember “God works best in chaos’’ (Walter Brueggemann) and that we daily surrender to that which already lives inside of us. God exists! – That within our relationship with God we grow roots so deep we will be unshakable, branches so wide that we can touch others and they will be empowered, and that we provide shade for those in need of faith and rest.
“Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.”
As we read this Psalm, I’m imagining our voices joining with generations before us, all creation, and the cloud of witnesses, who have and continue to sing songs of praise. I can hear a large chorus with different parts coming in and out of focus. Maybe it sounds like a round, maybe there’s beautiful harmony, maybe some of the parts are really loud and full of energy, maybe others are singing quietly, reverently.
I imagine it sounds like something between a cacophony of noises and a harmonious symphony. When I imagine the songs of praises this way, I’m encouraged. I think it would be difficult, if not impossible, to keep the song of praise going just by myself, especially when I don’t always feel like praising God. Sometimes, I’d rather sing a song than a lament. Or not sing at all, and hold space for silence. I’m continuing to learn that praising God is not mutually exclusive, meaning it doesn’t have to be the only song I’m singing. We can: Praise and grieve. Praise and lament. Praise and ponder. And in this season of advent, may we continue to praise and wait.
I experience many emotions throughout the Advent season: anticipation, inspiration, content, curiosity, joy, and awe. Growing up one of my fondest memories of this season was the variety of music. The proclamation that rings out when “Hark! The herald angels sing” is sung in a chorus of harmonious voices, with the piano, strings, and trumpets all playing along, bringing me back to a joyful memory that I can only feel in my body. I can feel it out to my fingertips and up through my center, the feeling of inspiration that something wonderful has happened. The music fills me down to my toes as I reach deep down into my diaphragm for a full breath to proclaim through song, “peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!”
9 Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your dwelling-place, 10 no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12 On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
14 Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name. 15 When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honour them. 16 With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.
If you camp a lot, then you know tent placement is incredibly important. A slope can cause the blood to rush to your head. A hill will send pools of water into your tent during a rainstorm. Dead branches above might come crashing down on you in a windstorm. Boulders uphill might let loose during the night. Your body is only as safe as your dwelling-place.
Many sleep in tents across our country tonight who are not in safe dwelling-places. They are temporarily homeless or have chosen this tent as their home. They are not safe. There is a scourge that comes near. This scourge is wealth inequity, the opportunity gap, racism, unjust housing policies, and our inability to address the mental health crisis. Yet, even to these, God promises to “be with them in trouble”, “to rescue and honor them”, and to “satisfy them”.
Oh, Lord. Send your angels to those with danger just outside their tents. Bear them up, and may we together tread on the lion and the adder of injustice that threatens them.