OUR OPINION: God keeps moving people ahead in faith

How beautiful upon the mountains

are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,

who brings good news,

who announces salvation,

who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,

together they sing for joy;

for in plain sight they see

the return of the Lord to Zion.

Break forth together into singing,

you ruins of Jerusalem;

for the Lord has comforted his people,

he has redeemed Jerusalem.

The Lord has bared his holy arm

before the eyes of all the nations;

and all the ends of the earth shall see

the salvation of our God.

Isaiah 52: 7-10, NRSV

Advent and Christmas are seasons both seeking and offering reassurance. People need to know and hope that in their faith is a presence and promise that God reigns in creation, of which we are a part, and that the promises made through prophets and sages, heroines and defenders, martyrs and wise men, matters in how we live.

The writer of Isaiah understood clearly the need for hope and the efficacy of soaring narrative to bring people back from their fears and into the shelters of the faithful.

Those who came across the mountains in the stories of the Bible bringing peace had been so long awaited, and those who had waited probably had been near the edge of despair.

“Your God reigns,” Isaiah reports.

The whole passage of Isaiah 52:7-10 describes a “muscular” God whose strength is greater than any of the threats to the people of Isaac’s time, probably in the 6th century BCE, words of hope for a people in exile, away from their historic homeland and dispossessed as history usually understands it.

Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann believes the later chapters of Isaiah also are a call for the people of the book to leave where they have been and to look toward a New Jerusalem which has not been experienced. Theologian Letty Russell says Isaiah 52 also points to a God who surprises by calling people of faith to move on from their assumptions and experience God in new human interactions that both reassure and challenge.

Isaiah 52 does not allow people to stay still in their faith but to move on to what’s next, a reassurance that God is not finished.