This is the Christian hope that Jesus brings … that this is not how things will always be, but everything will be made new.
In Christ we are made new …
But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together,
so that people may see and know, may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.’ “
Isaiah 41: 17 – 20
“‘May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.’
For the sake of my family and friends,
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your prosperity.”
Today’s reading from Psalm 122 made me think of the recent US election. I find I am deeply disturbed about all its implications and concerned about the future for both those within and those of us outside of the US. And so my response was to draw the dove as a symbol of both the Holy Spirit and of peace, and to include the Stars and Stripes of the US flag.
It somehow seems ironic that this is a time when we are looking forward to the birth of a middle Eastern baby, born into a refugee family, and someone who stood against Empire, and who taught us to love our neighbours (pointing out that our neighbours are those who we might see as foreign and not like ourselves). Jesus came for the poor, the oppressed, the marginalised, the minorities. He challenged the comfortable and sought justice for those whom this world has crushed.
And so I feel shocked and helpless and want to dissociate myself from those who claim to be Christian and yet supported a candidate who is the polar opposite of all that Jesus was and is. And the only response I have is to pray. I pray that despite how things are, the work Jesus came to do might still go on; that despite the hate-mongering, ALL people in the US might live safely and securely and that peace would reign. This is my prayer for all our sakes.
“…How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you…The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.” Isaiah 30:19-26
This is a difficult passage. On the one hand it paints a picture of hope for God’s response to our need, but on the other it suggests that some of the things we suffer are a punishment. Without getting into an in depth study of the nature of the text, for me what stands out is that God is gracious. Whatever the reason for our difficulties, God is waiting to respond to our call for help. And what a response! Not just a response that repairs the damage, but a response that goes beyond anything we can imagine. A response that causes the light to be brighter than we have ever experienced before.
Light is a consistent theme during advent. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light: Jesus is the light of the world. And so perhaps these verses in Isaiah point to the coming Jesus, the light that shines on the world and makes everything, even the sun and the moon, glow brighter to drive out the darkness.
I wonder what bruises we carry that might need binding up by the one who responds with overwhelming grace and shines light in our lives?
I am attempting an artful response to some bible passages during Advent this year. They are taken from the church’s 3- year programme of readings for each day (called the lectionary).
Three years ago I attempted something similar but with passages identified from a different source. If you click on ‘Advent’ in the tab on the right you will see all of them. This year, as in 2013, my medium will be the Paper 53 iPad app.
I will read the passage and reflect before drawing my response. I hope that you might join me in reading the passage and perhaps use my picture to help reflect on the words. Or perhaps you can make your own picture using whatever medium you prefer. I may on occasion also offer some words of reflection.
1 Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
2 May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.
3 May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness.
4 May he defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
may he crush the oppressor.
5 May he endure[a] as long as the sun,
as long as the moon, through all generations.
6 May he be like rain that falls on mown grass,
like showers that water the earth.
7 In his days may the righteous flourish
and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.”
This psalm looks forward to the time when justice will be done. The afflicted, the poor, the needy and the oppressed will be saved and defended and Jesus will be the rain that waters them. The coming of Jesus heralds a new era when everything is made new, justice is served, and sickness, poverty and oppression are no more.
Yet whilst during advent we anticipate Jesus birth, and we wait, we also recognise that he has already come and is even now living as the risen Christ and so those of us who call ourselves Jesus followers need to seek to imitate him. And so I ask myself -how am I also bringing justice and healing to the afflicted? How am I saving the children and defending the poor?
I recently wrote to my MP to express concern over the unaccompanied migrant children in Calais. I find myself very dissatisfied with the answer I received whereby the government are only focussing on under 12s. I have a 13 year old and a 17 year old and the thought of them being alone in such a place fills me with horror. I can only call myself Christian if I am prepared to stand up for these children and so I need to find ways to pursue this.
Perhaps you too could ask yourself the same questions ‘How, this advent, am I bringing justice and healing to the afflicted? How am I saving the children and defending the poor? ‘
I pray that as we anticipate the coming of Jesus, God would show you how you can be part of his plan.
O come, O come Emmanuel – God with us.
“And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior …” Luke 1:46-47
A day late, but never mind …
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13