By NEMS Daily Journal
“On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; he sets up victory like walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, so that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace – in peace because they trust in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for in the LORD GOD you have an everlasting rock. For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height; the lofty city he lays low. He lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy. The way of the righteous is level; O Just One, you make smooth the path of the righteous. In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and your renown are the soul’s desire. My soul yearns for you in the night, my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. If favor is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness they deal perversely and do not see the majesty of the LORD.”
from Isaiah 26
The sobering and weighty lessons of the Advent season sink almost into obscurity as the rising tide of Christmas approaches, and that is doubly unfortunate because the wisdom and experience of the Judeo-Christian culture spanning 2,700 years becomes not only lost but distorted.
Advent, the first season of the Christian liturgical year, ties together what’s past, what’s hoped for in the future, and what’s cautionary in the context of the present.
The constant is trying to understand what kind of future awaits the world.
Professor Herman Waetjen of San Francisco Theological Seminary asks, “What kind of future are we anticipating? What will be the net effect of all the violence, destruction of human life, drug addiction, injustices and ecological damage that are being perpetrated today? Is it even realistic to expect a future for ourselves and our children? Can the world really be changed?”
His answer, in the Christian context, of course is that there’s reason to live in “expectation of change and transformation, because God has already given birth to a new humanity. That is the meaning of the Christ event that we celebrate at Christmas: the beginning of a New Humanity pioneered by Jesus and empowered by God to eradicate evil and to establish God’s rule on earth.”
Waetjen draws on Isaiah 26:1-10 to make the point that ancient prophets “combined a song of victory with a psalm of hope. It is an anticipation of what will be experienced in the new city of God: healing and wholeness resulting from justice and reconciliation. God will be present as never before, because God will be dwelling in as well as with those who inhabit this city. Waiting in expectation for the realization of this worldwide victory of God’s rule requires quiet confidence.”
Advent is a time of hopeful waiting for complete victory, Waetjen writes, “… Through our work and witness as representatives of the Pioneer of Life, as members of the Body of Christ, God is preparing a feast for all peoples of the world. Christmas is the guarantee! Therefore, ‘Trust in Yahweh forever, for Yahweh God is an everlasting rock.’”
Christmas is a wonderful celebration, but it’s not the only day this time of year offering life-changing content.