Monday of the First Week of Advent
November 28, 2022
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, Isaiah teaches us how to imagine with the power of faith.
We’ve probably all done this, at least in small ways. It’s a mechanism for getting through some of the tougher spots in our lives. For example, when I have an unpleasant dental procedure, I calm myself by imagining the pizza I will pick up on the way home. I even envision a specific time when the procedure will be over and I’ll be in line at the pizzeria.
Isaiah is coaching us in the same coping mechanisms, but on a much grander scale.
On that day,
The branch of the LORD will be luster and glory,
and the fruit of the earth will be honor and splendor
for the survivors of Israel.
He who remains in Zion
and he who is left in Jerusalem
Will be called holy:
every one marked down for life in Jerusalem.
During his lifetime, Isaiah lived in a war torn land where the poor and the vulnerable were particularly threatened. These daily anxieties challenged their faith and eroded their confidence in God. Their intent to build and participate in a faithful community suffered because they could not see beyond their pain.
Isaiah tells them that a better day is coming. He invites Israel to stretch their faith, to trust in God’s promise, and to believe that God abides with them and will deliver them to glory.
Then will the LORD create,
over the whole site of Mount Zion
and over her place of assembly,
A smoking cloud by day
and a light of flaming fire by night.
For over all, the LORD’s glory will be shelter and protection:
shade from the parching heat of day,
refuge and cover from storm and rain.
Isaiah is asking a lot of these bereft people. It is really hard to live in the Light when there is nothing around you but darkness. But it is possible to do so by the power of faith.
In our Gospel, Jesus meets a man who has that kind of powerful faith. When Jesus offers to come cure the man’s paralyzed servant, the man says there is no need to come. He already trusts that God is with that servant and will bring him to wholeness.
Hearing the man, Jesus was amazed and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”
Indeed, as we pray today, Isaiah and Jesus may be asking us for the same kind of faith. There is a lot of pain and darkness in the larger world we share, and in many of our individual worlds. As we make our Advent journey, God asks us to live in a way that does not ignore the gloom, but still sees through it to trust the Light – a faith that proclaims God is already with us, bringing us to wholeness.
Poetry: To Imagination – Emily Brontë
When weary with the long day's care, And earthly change from pain to pain, And lost and ready to despair, Thy kind voice calls me back again: Oh, my true friend! I am not lone, While thou canst speak with such a tone! So hopeless is the world without; The world within I doubly prize; Thy world, where guile, and hate, and doubt, And cold suspicion never rise; Where thou, and I, and Liberty, Have undisputed sovereignty. What matters it, that, all around, Danger, and guilt, and darkness lie, If but within our bosom's bound We hold a bright, untroubled sky, Warm with ten thousand mingled rays Of suns that know no winter days? Reason, indeed, may oft complain For Nature's sad reality, And tell the suffering heart, how vain Its cherished dreams must always be; And Truth may rudely trample down The flowers of Fancy, newly-blown: But, thou art ever there, to bring The hovering vision back, and breathe New glories o'er the blighted spring, And call a lovelier Life from Death, And whisper, with a voice divine, Of real worlds, as bright as thine. I trust not to thy phantom bliss, Yet, still, in evening's quiet hour, With never-failing thankfulness, I welcome thee, Benignant Power; Sure solacer of human cares, And sweeter hope, when hope despairs!
Music: Imagine – John Lennon