Wednesday, December 3, 2008

e-vo for week of December 3

Dearest e-votees-

For this week we will use the Isaiah text that is appointed for this Sunday to draw us into the good news of the coming of the Lord.

May your time of preparation and waiting this Advent be blessed.



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 forever.

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.

Isaiah 40:1-11, NRSV

It is hard to read these words without having a soundtrack begin to swell up in the mind. Handel’s Messiah drew heavily from this text—as did the derivative Handel’s Messiah—A Soulful Celebration (a wonderful addition to one’s music library). The opening song in Godspell--Prepare Ye--also comes from this section of scripture. Worship songs about shepherds and sheep spill out of this text too. Why do these words from Isaiah catch our attentions and those of so many musicians and lyricists?

Maybe we know all too well the grassiness of our lives. Our constancy IS like that of the flowers of the field. We can be gone in a breath. Our loyalties can shift. The sure things we were betting on can evaporate right before our eyes. Our very lives could end this day. It is interesting to see in the passage above the breath of the Lord as a force taking life in contrast to God’s breath into the dust in Eden and the breath/wind/spirit of God into the dry bones in Ezekiel. When we draw near to the frailty and fickleness of life we are drawn towards the faithfulness and constancy of the word of our God.

Maybe we know all too well that we are sheep who have strayed. We have wandered far in heart and spirit. Our enthusiasm (literally in-Godness) is lacking. We have wandered off the path. We want and need our shepherd to come and guide us back into the fold. Perhaps that is why these verses resonate so deeply.

Maybe we seek comfort from the things that have beset us. We want the Lord to come and we want to be prepared. That is what Advent is about in a deep sense. It is also what our lives should be like. Repentance (turning back) and turning our eyes towards the Lord is part of the rhythm of the Christian faith. The words and music inspired from our Isaiah text accompany that rhythm well.

Stir up in us, O God, songs of praise. Move us to pray and trust in the sure and steady places found in the words you give us. Prepare in us a way for the Lord. Amen.

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