A god from a machine”—that is the literal translation of deus ex machina. This Latin phrase refers to the ancient Greek and Roman dramatic device used to solve an unsolvable problem at the end of a play by using a crane (“machine”) to lower a god onto the stage from above.
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down.” Imagine this as a deus ex machina moment, when God comes and sorts out all the discord, violence, and worry of our lives and world. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for God to fix it all—especially when it seems God has abandoned us?
It is an ancient hope, this desire for God to swoop down from on high and tidy up the messes we make and to heal our brokenness, the woundedness of a loved one, or a world at war. These verses reflect that hope. Isaiah’s people find themselves embroiled in conflict as they return to Jerusalem after a long exile. Power struggles, land disputes, and violence are pervasive. These words of lament long for God’s divine power to bring change into what must seem a hopeless situation.
Some things in life do seem hopeless—things as simple as how to wrestle our schedule into a sustainable rhythm or as complex as the challenges of race relations in America or the deep distrust barring peace in the Middle East. Situations both personal and global threaten to steal our hope. And yet, even when all seems lost, we hope that in Jesus, God has torn open the heavens and come down, has come right into the midst of the violence and despair of the world. Jesus comes not to make the painful bits of life disappear but to assure us that God is with us through it all, mending, loving, saving.
Ever-present God, help me trust you more than I distrust everything else. Amen.
Advent begins not on a note of joy but of despair. Humankind has realized that people cannot save themselves; apart from God’s intervention, we are totally lost. The prayer of Advent is that Christ will soon come again to rule over God’s creation. The passages from Isaiah 64 and Psalm 80 express the longing of faithful people for God to break into their isolation and to shatter the gridlock of human sin. The New Testament texts anticipate with both awe and thanksgiving the coming of “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
• Read Isaiah 64:1-9. When have you found yourself in a disorienting setting? What was your cry to God? What response to your lament did you seek?
• Read Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19. What in you needs the restoration that only God can give?
• Read 1 Corinthians 1:3-9. How might you become a means of reconciliation in your family, your work setting, your city?
• Read Mark 13:24-37. What especially do you long for this Advent-Christmas? How can you participate in the transforming love of Christ to manifest a reconciling spirit?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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