Monday, November 28, 2016

This is Their Story, This is Our Story

This is a weird start to the Advent season. It is not yet December. There are still colorful leaves on the trees. And it is raining outside. The commercial powers-that-be sure got the memo, however. A minute and a half after Halloween ended, twinkle lights, bows, wreaths, and stripes of green and red appeared in every store front window.

Yet, as with many seasons in our lives, this unease is reflected from the stories of God’s people throughout Scripture. A few thousand years ago, these same people sat together and wondered at the prophets’ declarations that Hope was coming. Things seemed too bleak to believe that their distress could ever turn to rejoicing. I’m sure Isaiah (mighty prophet, though he was) was discouraged as well, yet he continued to proclaim the Word he heard from the Lord. How amazing and ironic that we read these words today and experience the same messy mixture of expectation and fear:
1But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
 The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.

You have multiplied the nation;

    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as they are glad when they divide the spoil.

For the yoke of his burden,

    and the staff for his shoulder,
    the rod of his oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult

    and every garment rolled in blood
    will be burned as fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born,

    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Other times and places have been able to better understand the plight of the Israelites’ exile in Babylon or oppression under the heavy hand of the Romans. With our warm homes, secure jobs, religious freedom, and democratic liberties, it’s easy to forget that much of the world’s sufferings parallel the hardships during the time of the prophets. In times of crisis, calamity, and political unrest, the veil has a tendency to droop, and we are able to imagine what life might be like if things were a little bit worse.

Advent is a time when we can climb into the pain with those who are hurting; kneel beside those who are weeping; scream at the injustice of it all; question God’s timing . . . and then stand up, re-read the message of the prophets, and look upward with expectation. We can trace Christ’s lineage from its humble, broken, weary beginnings, and see the residue of God’s faithful plan in each life He touched. The best part, is that He holds our lives as dearly as He held Jacob’s, and Ruth’s, and David’s, and Hezekiah’s. Their story is our story this Advent. We have all walked in deep darkness, but on us, a great Light shines. He is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.

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