Saturday, December 18, 2010
Ponderings for the Last Week in Advent
And then we turn to today’s scripture passage in Isaiah 11. One shall come, the writer says and wonderful things are promised: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” Whatever your condition today—put down refuge, tower, tent, and the shelter of his wings next to them. The promise of Christmas is for us all.
Tuesday – December 21 – Psalm 66. “Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.”Later on in this same Psalm the writer reminds his people: “For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs; you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you brought us out to a spacious place.”
If that is not enough the Psalm ends: “But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer. Blessed be God because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.” As we begin to glimpse Bethlehem just a few days from our journey’s end—let us know deep in our hearts that here, under the shining star, surrounded by scruffy shepherds and kings from a foreign land we find the Psalmist is right. He really has done awesome deeds among us. Thanks be to God.
John Updike who left us just about two years ago once wrote, “Fear is the mood. People are bringing the shutters down from the attics and putting them back on their windows. Fences are appearing where children used to stray freely from backyard to backyard…Locksmiths are working overtime. Once we parked our cards with the keys dangling from the dashboard, And a dog could sleep undisturbed in the middle of the street. No more. Fear reigns.”
From then until now the demon fear is alive and well. Christmas says whatever your worry and anxiety and fear—God comes. Do not be afeared.
Thursday – December 23 – Psalm 146. 7-9. Strange isn’t it? Christmas first came to peasants, a poor couple, an obscure priest and his wife, shepherds of all people. The setting was a drafty barn where the animals stayed when the nights were cold. And today—we rich and middle class have captured Christmas. And the poor, outside the plate (and stained) glass windows feel shut out. Luke 4 told us what this Messiah would do. He opened the Isaiah scroll and read what his charge: “To bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4. ,18-19) His hearers were incensed.
Fighting for the rights of the poor has always been an uphill battle. Especially today. Christmas baskets may help some. Toys for Tots can certainly assure some child of a happy Christmas day. Yet Christmas never really will be fulfilled until we move over on our pews and welcome those to whom God first came.
Friday – December 24 – Isaiah 35. Remember the setting. They lived always on the edge of a wilderness. For forty years they have lived in a desert. And then—even after they made it to the Promised Land they fought the desert almost every day of their lives. The wind, the scorpions, the oppressive heat and the lack of enough water. Drought was an every-present fear. And here, Isaiah 35 says, “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing.” But all this is prelude for the rest of this wonderful chapter. Read it for yourself. Put down today’s newspaper beside these wonderful words of promise.
I love the way that Buechner frames this promise: “A child on Christmas Eve…lives for the presents that he will open the next day, and in this sense we all live like children. There are so many presents to be opened—tomorrow, next month, next year—and in a way it is our looking forward to the presents that keeps us going. The unexpected friendship, the new job, seeing our names in the paper, falling in love, the birth of a child—all of these are presents that life gives us if we want them badly enough and if we are lucky enough, and in a way every new days is a present to be opened just as today was and tomorrow will be.”The waiting is almost over. Tomorrow is the day. Come, Lord Jesus, come.