Throughout this Advent season, my goal is to take each of the four Lectionary readings for each week and write a meditation about each one. Largely my motivation for this is simply that I love the season of Advent, yet there’s also a little bit of hoping that by blogging through this season, I can use it as a means to grieve the recent passing of my Dad.
WEEK 2: A reading from the Prophet Isaiah
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice cries: “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 plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are young.
— Isaiah 40:1-11 (ESV)
Last week, we lit the candle of hope. This week, along with hope, we light the candle of peace.
Our first reading this week takes us back to the Prophet Isaiah. By this point in Israel’s history, neither hope nor peace are in play. Israel is in captivity. Their land is being occupied by foreign forces. God is speaking through the Prophets, yet the words are not always all that hopeful or peaceful.
Then we come to today’s passage.
Isaiah speaks words of comfort to Jerusalem. The Lord is coming, so prepare the way.
The Lord is coming. Make the highway straight.
In the latter part of the reading, we find words of peace. “Fear not.” “He will tend his flock like a shepherd.” “He will gently lead the young.”
We see this theme of Shepherd again.
Fast forward a few hundred years to the life and ministry of the Messiah.
He’s hanging around with some shady characters. Characters who, like us, need rescued. The religious folk of the day are critical of Jesus’ methods.
“He hangs around with sinners.”
“He hangs out with our enemies.”
“He says to go into the highways and hedges and bring in the homeless.”
“He says to love the orphans.”
“He says to heal the sick.”
“He says to take care of the immigrant.”
“He says to love all as brothers and sisters no matter their social standing.”
And Jesus responds with a story.
“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!” Count on it–there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.” — Luke 15:4-7 (The Message)
Jesus tells them, in essence, that He would leave them in their cushioned pews to go get the one who is dirty, hungry, homeless, and sick. The one who needs rescued is more important than the ninety-nine who have been rescued and are comfortable in their rescue.
What would you do?
Would you sit in the fold with the ninety-nine and say, “Forget the one. They have nothing to offer anyway. They have no money. They have sickness. They’ll just want a hand-out.” Or, would you leave the comfort and head into the woods to find that one who needs rescued.
There is always one to rescue.
What are you doing in this Advent season to bring Christ’s peace to the one who needs rescued?
Peace in the midst of suffering.
Peace in the midst of hunger.
Peace in the midst of war.
Peace in the midst of illness.
Peace in the midst of death.
Peace has come. He came unassumingly. He came without fanfare. He came without a gift.
A child — Peace embodied — in a humble stable.
Peace came to rescue the world.
Would you leave the ninety-nine for the one to rescue?