As we move through the Advent readings, expectation and reflection on what it meant for the world to welcome a baby, born in a manger, and the disruptive message of love made flesh, should make us focus on this world-changing event. The December Lectionary readings reveal the prophetic focus of Isaiah and brings these events into sharp focus.
3 December – Isaiah 64:1-9
The expectation that God’s appearance on earth should be ‘earth shattering’ seems fair enough. How do we square that with the birth of the baby Jesus in an out of the way provincial town in fairly ordinary circumstances (aside from the obscure unofficial international interest and alleged celestial fanfare)?
Yet the advent of the Messiah creates a fissure in the history of humanity. The way the character Jesus interacts with social and religious norms, and the way those norms react to Jesus, changes everything irrevocably!
‘Awesome things we did not expect’ sums it up well! As we come to appreciate what Christ has revealed we cannot help but be in awe of his divine unveiling of the systems of our world. And because our whole way of imagining is so conditioned by those very world systems, we could never have anticipated the disruptive and life-giving power of the humble, gentle, loving Messiah’s self-giving.
In what ways has the coming of the Messiah rocked your world? How has life changed irrevocably for you?
10 December – Isaiah 40:1-11
After generations of struggle and the seeming absence of God’s blessing in their experience of life, the people of Israel receive Isaiah’s words as life-restoring hope. Where things had been so tough and inaccessible, God would open a way for them.
But not only for Israel! All flesh will see it together! In/out group identities will no longer function. All comers will be welcome to walk in this newly opened way. The more who do, the better it is for everyone!
What are the features of a way of life that brings exponential blessing to all – and all the more when more and more people walk in it?
17 December – Isaiah 61:1-11
Is there anything richer or more fulfilling than being involved in restoring life?! There is deep joy in being strength to the broken and in helping the enslaved find their freedom. These are the things that are the clearest echo of abundance and that stand for all eternity.
Isaiah glimpses the way that would be revealed fully in the coming of Messiah. It is a way full of strength and glory – but not the strength or glory the world conceives. This is the deep strength of freedom, and the glory of abundance that flows from caring for one another without exclusion.
How much do you know of this strength and glory? How do you make it known to others?
24 December – Luke 1:26-38
Mary’s encounter with the angel was distressing for her. The things she was told did not square with her self-understanding or her expectations regarding how life might go for her. Mary was, by her own admission, no one in particular!
But ‘no one in particular’ becomes the servant of the eternal purposes of God when she trusts and gives herself to the purpose for which she has been called. By most standards, the whole story is impossible. Thank God Mary did not limit herself to those standards!
How has God’s call on your life challenged your own expectations of how life might go for you? Are you also ‘no one in particular’?
Christmas Day – Luke 2:1-14
Messiah arrives. God among people on earth, not as a significant religious festival or a powerful political moment, but as the obscure and unselfconscious arrival of a baby unannounced except to fringe-dwellers.
God’s ways are not the ways of the world. There is no sign of coercion or manipulation in the advent of Messiah. Simply the quiet arrival of the person who would change everything, for everyone, forever!
Today, as you celebrate the coming of Messiah, what has changed for you as a result of Jesus’ birth?
31 December – Luke 2:22-40
Sometimes old people say the darnedest things. It takes a special kind of older person to speak words of life, purpose and hope to the up and coming generation – a generation they can barely hope to relate to.
Simeon’s words were not saccharine platitudes or random rantings either. He saw salvation, and he knew it would also mean disruption and upheaval. He spoke wise, purpose-filled truth with unapologetic clarity.
With Simeon’s prophetic song echoing in their ears, Mary and Joseph proceed to raise their son.
Who offered you prophetic words of life when you were younger (anyone)? What are the words of the prophetic song you are singing to the generation that are coming after you?
Reflections for December were written by the Rev. David Gore, minister at Mustard Seed Ultimo Uniting Church