It can be easy, especially when we live in comfortable surroundings, to let the words of the prophets become disconnected from our tangible, grounded realities. That’s why this passage from Isaiah is so powerful. It’s straightforward, physical, and gritty. It’s what politicians might call a “kitchen-table issue.” The Lord loves justice. The Lord hates robbery and dishonesty. The Lord will pay fair wages and keep the promises the Lord has made.
These words must feel so liberating to a people who have been in exile, who likely have been struggling to make ends meet for years as they fight against the oppression of a foreign nation who has taken them from their home. The Lord is with them. That doesn’t just mean that God is on their side in some abstract way; God is on their side with regard to economics, fairness, and their place in society. They are not powerless anymore because God is in charge and God will be fair.
The second half of this passage adds even more weight to this point. God is not only with them now but will continue to be with them, providing justice for generations to come. What more comforting words can you give to a parent than to say that your child is safe, will continue to be blessed, and will thrive even after you are gone.
The hope that we find in Advent is a hope not only for ourselves but also for our community and for our families. This hope alleviates our most mundane anxieties by telling us that God is present and working to provide us with justice and a future. We may not know what the future holds, but we know that the future is not something to be feared.
God, you are good, you are just, and you are our hope. Help us invite others to experience the same hope we have in you. Amen.
Isaiah speaks of the day in which God’s Anointed One (Messiah) will bring good news to the poor and hope to the oppressed. Jesus will later read this passage and declare it to be about himself (Luke 4), so we read Isaiah’s prophecy during Advent. The psalmist rejoices that God has restored the fortunes of the people. They have come through a period of difficulty, but God has brought them into a place of joy. Throughout Advent, we also look forward to such rejoicing. Paul encourages the Thessalonians to pray continually with an attitude of gratitude and rejoicing, and the God of peace will sustain them. In the Gospel reading, John the Baptist repeats the theme from last week—that he is merely the messenger to prepare the way for the Lord.
Read Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11. God is coming. How do Isaiah’s words of praise and justice inspire you to act in response?
Read Psalm 126. How do you celebrate the justice that you have seen come to fruition while hoping for future justice? How does your anticipation of the fullness of justice affect your faith?
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24. How can you return to the basics of faith during this Advent season?
Read John 1:6-8, 19-28. How is this Advent season both familiar and new for you? How might simple announcements of Jesus’ coming change your experience of the season?
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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