There are many things I like about the weeks before Christmas. Christmas lights. Christmas music. An excuse to bake cookies. And eat them.
Not the least, however, is that we hear a lot from Isaiah, the fellow who most accurately prophesized the coming of the Lord and Savior some eight centuries before little Jesus was born in a manger in Bethlehem.
We hear it in some of the carols – e.g. O Come, O Come Emmanuel, sung beautifully by Pentatonix…..
Of course, those of us who love Handel’s Messiah hear much of Isaiah’s words in the first part of the oratorio written way back in 1741. For unto us a child is born; every valley shall be exalted; and the glory of the Lord shines upon us.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Purely by accident, I assure you, I was appropriately dressed for the first Sunday of Advent yesterday…..
I was wearing purple, the traditional color of Advent. You might recall that the Advent wreath has three purple candles and one pink candle. The truth is, in our hurry to get to church on time, I grabbed the first clean sweater in my closet, which happened to be lavender. When we took our seat in church, I noticed the family in front of us was wearing purple – Mom and daughter in purple sweaters, Dad in a purple dress shirt. Real men wear purple. Nearly every member of the women’s choir was wearing purple. The priest and deacon were both wearing purple vestments. I felt smug, a feeling that probably shouldn’t be felt at Mass, and something of which the Prophet Isaiah would not approve.
My sister Jen – who attended a biblical scholar program conducted by the Denver Catholic Archdiocese (so there all you non-Catholics who think Catholics don’t read the bible) – loves to quote the Prophet Isaiah, as she finds great comfort in his words. As for me, I love that he so accurately prophesized the life of Christ, from his birth to his violent death and resurrection.
Isaiah wrote at a time – one of many, I’m afraid – when God’s chosen people had turned away once again, lost in despair. Doesn’t that sound familiar? So many of God’s people have turned away from Him today, wallowing in despair and convinced that the difficult times we are experiencing are evidence that God does not exist. Even I, on occasion, wonder if God has forsaken me.
There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt. – Isaiah 64:6
Sounds like Isaiah has given up on God, and yet, he goes on to say…
Yey, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands. – Isaiah 64:7
God made us all in his image and likeness. We are the work of his own hands. That thought makes me stop in my tracks and consider that how I experience the Lord in my life is more than wearing purple on the appropriate day, accidental or not.
Advent is the time of preparing the way for the coming of the Lord. I must remind myself throughout these weeks before Christmas to keep my eye on the baby born in Bethlehem whose most important job, ultimately, was to die and be resurrected to save us all.
But he had a lot to do before that happened.