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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Today’s Reading | Isaiah 40:1–11

Comfort, O comfort my people,
   says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
   and cry to her
that she has served her term,
   that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
   double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
   “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
   Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
   the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
   Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
   for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry out!”
   And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
All people are grass,
   their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
   when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
   The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand for ever.
   Get you up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good tidings;
lift up your voice with strength,
   O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,
lift it up, do not fear;
   say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
   See, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
   his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
   He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
   and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep. (NRSV)


“Here in time we celebrate the eternal birth that God the Father bore and still bears constantly in eternity, and which is also now born in time, in human nature. St. Augustine says that this birth is happening continually. We should ask ourselves: If it doesn’t happen in me, what good is that birth after all? What ultimately matters is that God’s birth should happen in me.”
              —Meister Eckhart

In an important sermon about Advent (the season of preparing for Christ’s coming into the world that we now start to celebrate), Christian mystic Meister Eckhart challenges all his listeners to consider our own connection to the birth of Jesus in the world. He is trying to get all Christians to see that the story we tell at Advent and into Christmas means nothing if it doesn’t actually change our own lives.

As we hear the words of Isaiah 40:1–11, it is important to realize that what we are given is not a simple message or speech; it is a dialogue. We hear the voices of the prophet (who calls the people to hear good news) and of God (who assures the people that their troubles are over). We also hear a voice crying out that we should prepare for God’s coming into our lives, and another voice reminding us of our fragility and of the dependability of God’s word.

Consider this about dialogues: if you’re not actively engaged in listening, in seeking to understand, and then finally in speaking yourself, you’re not part of the dialogue. You’re just an observer. The dialogue that introduces Isaiah’s message of hope and liberation to the world invites all his hearers to participate. By it we are invited to tell those around us to listen up for good news, to encourage them to prepare a way for God to enter their worlds, and even to remind them that the heavy concerns that weigh down their lives are nothing compared to the word of hope by which God will gather them in.

Will we answer Isaiah’s invitation? As we celebrate Advent and Christmas, how might our actions and our attitudes reflect the voices of the dialogue to those around us?

God who is coming to free all the world from bondage, grant me the ears to truly hear your Advent story anew, the imagination to see my place in it, and the courage to let that story live and speak through me. And make me part of a church that offers a true message of real hope to the world. In the name of the One who is always coming to us to save, I pray. Amen.

Written by Hardy H. Kim, Associate Pastor for Evangelism

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