The season of Advent, this season of preparation for Christmas, begins with Prophets. Prophets are people who have a special ability to understand God’s longing for our world. Prophets are people who are willing to share God’s longing for our world with others: to share it loud, to share it strong, no matter what the consequences. The Prophet Isaiah says:
God will make justice among the people, and they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:4)
No one will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. (Isaiah 35:1-2)
Isaiah was a prophet. He also spoke of another prophet who would come after him, someone who would be a voice crying out in the wilderness, saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Some people think the prophet Isaiah described was a man we call John the Baptist. He preached and baptized out by the Jordan River, saying:
Turn around, change your ways, for God’s heavenly way has come near. (Matthew 3:2)
Many people feel that John’s work made way for the ministry of Jesus.
Another person who bears witness to God’s truth in this season, and who makes way for Jesus, is Mary of Nazareth. Mary accepts a frightening invitation from an angel and agrees to bear a special child. She says:
O God, your mercy is for those who fear you from generation to generation. You show your strength and scatter the proud. You bring down the powerful from their thrones, and lift up the lowly. You fill the hungry with good things, and send the rich away empty. You help your people, remembering to be merciful, as you promised our ancestors. (Luke 1:50-55)
I wonder if you can think of people today who bravely share their ideas about how our world should be, how our world could be, how God longs for our world to be.
This season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are so many ways that we could use our time and energy. If we listen to our television, and our email inbox, and our postal mail, and our calendar, they may tell us to do things like:
- Make a list of all the things that we wish we had.
- Spend lots of time and money shopping for things we think other people might like to have.
- Stay up late and attend lots of parties
- Get really busy with planning and wrapping and travelling and cleaning and cooking
- Eat lots and lots of things, including lots of sugar
- Drink lots and lots of things, including lots of alcohol (for the adults).
Now I’m sure that many of us will do many of the things on that list. Most of them can be fun in moderation for most of us. They can also provide some distraction from the fact that it’s cold outside, and dark at 4:30 p.m..
But the season of Advent, and the prophets in it, invite us to include something different in this season. They invite us to:
- Find a moment to get quiet: by ourselves, or with a few people we really care about.
- If it’s already dark, to light a candle.
- Breathe in and out, and become aware of the moment we are living in.
- Be honest about what is difficult or painful in our lives, and in the life of the world, not trying to cover it up.
- Wake up our sense of hope for healing, for change.
- Pay attention, to all those who are working for beautiful change around us.
- Begin to imagine how we could be a very small part of that great big beautiful change.
I hope you’ll get some resources from this church to help you do these things, this season; or that you’ll spend some time today considering how you might make this a season of holy preparation, of spiritual nourishment.
At the service, we went on to learn a new (to us) version of Mary’s Magnificat by Ray Makeever, complete with motions learned at Holden Village!