Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Into the Mess

“To practice Advent is to lean into an almost cosmic ache: our deep, wordless desire for things to be made right and the incompleteness we find in the meantime.” –Tish Harrison Warren

Enter Isaiah chapter 9:
But 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[d] his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called[e]
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.
If anyone knew darkness, it was David’s ancestor Ruth. Things in her life went from bad to worse, yet her (and Naomi’s) story is woven with strands of light that can only be acknowledged as God moving in the midst of their suffering.

In her book, The Meaning is in the Waiting, Paula Gooder comments on this passage of Isaiah: “Isaiah knew that the disaster awaiting Judah—a disaster largely of their own making—had to be faced in the knowledge that woven into it and beyond it were signs of hope” (p. 62).

Graciously, Ruth and Naomi saw hope in their own lifetime. They were saved through the lovingkindness of a kinsman redeemer—their deepest needs fulfilled because of Boaz’ commitment to his covenant. Does that sound familiar? Indeed, Boaz is one of many Old Testament characters pointing the way to Christ.

God sent His son to step into the mess with us; into the burdens, the fears, the wastelands. He didn’t sweep it away or start the world over again as with the flood. He sent a redeemer. To make right the cosmic ache the world had known since sin entered Eden.

Gooder continues, “As is so often the case, Jesus fulfills these ancient prophecies in a surprising way, and it is through weaving light into the shade of our present world that he evokes wonder by the wisdom of his counsel (Wonderful Counselor), shows the power of God in the world (Mighty God), cares eternally just like a parent (Everlasting Father), and is the source of all well-being for God's people (Prince of Peace).”

Jesus daily fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy by embodying these attributes, but so often we cannot see them. It is blinding work living in a despairing world. Advent is about readjusting our eyes in the darkness so we can see more clearly. The prophets can show us the way. They knew a thing or two about hoping and waiting for God in the dark.

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