Darkness is our beginning / Not our ending. // We begin in darkness / The womb of Creation / Covering the face of the deep. / So also, darkness is the beginning / Of Redemption. // A Star appears in the darkness— / A signpost to the wise / Of all times and from all places / To leave their darkness / And journey to find him / Who is Light.
I suspect we would agree that children are better at practicing imagination, awe, and wonder. They do not let their imaginations become stunted by inhibitions. They don’t have enough history to fall back into old habits. Everything is new to children. Each day arrives on their pillow with a healthy dose of expectancy.
As we look forward to a new year, we are reminded of the greater newness yet to come in the new creation. Last night at midnight our calendars changed, but the world was otherwise the same. Someday, however, God will renew all things. In that day, sorrow will be swallowed up by rejoicing… God’s justice will cover the earth.
Isaiah 65 begins with a tragic thought. God stood ready to help his people, but they didn’t bother to call upon him. He was ready to be found by those he had chosen, but they were not looking for him… As I read this sad comment made by the Lord, I have to wonder how many times what was once true of Israel has been true of me. How many times has God been ready to help me, while I failed to turn to him?
Isaiah 64 is a prayer in which the prophet acknowledges God’s greatness and Israel’s great sinfulness. Then Isaiah turns to ask God to forgive and help his devastated people. The beginning of this supplication acknowledges two crucial images of God: Father and potter.
As the prophet looks upon the mess Israel made of its life, his thoughts turn to the mystery of God’s inaction, or even God’s participation in the rebellion of Israel: “Why, LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?” (63:17). If you’ve walked with the Lord for a while, I expect you’ve had questions like these.
What are your names? I’m not asking only about the names given to you at birth. I’m wondering also about the names assigned to you by others, the labels used to identify you, the titles that have brought you honor or shame… Do you need to discover the new name or names God has for you? Do you need to know that you are a Saint, one of God’s holy people, set apart for God and his purposes?
Do you ever think of yourself as a priest of the Lord? If you happen to be a clergyperson in the Anglican, Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox traditions, then you can easily answer this question in the affirmative. But what if you’re a salesperson, a business owner, a medical professional, or a cabinetmaker? Do you see yourself as a priest of God? Isaiah 61:6 would urge you to do so. As would the broad sweep of the biblical narrative.
When God brings his peace and justice to the world through the Messiah, God will not miraculously and instantaneously remake the broken world. Rather, the people who have been redeemed and set free by the Messiah will do this work. Specifically, we will “rebuild” and “restore” and “renew.” God doesn’t do everything for us. Instead, God does what God alone can do, and then invites us to partner with him in his work.
In this season of Advent, we remember the announcement of the angels, “Glory to God in the highest.” May our remembrance encourage us to live for God’s glory each day, in every avenue of life, at home and at work, in our neighborhoods and in the shopping malls, in our spending and in our giving, in our speaking and in our silence.