Let’s start with Isaiah. The time of this writing is supposed to be about 740 BCE. A time when there were constant threats from neighboring Assyria. The Isaiah text speaks of a person who will come to Israel and rule in a new way. It is pretty clear that Isaiah was pointing up the questionable history of kings of Israel and describing how this new person will deal with the things of justice. The Spirit of the lord will rest on him (vs. 2).
Isaiah is specifically pointing out God’s involvement in the new way of governance.
Let’s look for a moment of what is not here. There is no prediction of how this person will arrive only that he will be from the historical lineage of Israel. It seems to me that Isaiah offers a credential and is saying that Israel will recognize him when he arrives. In the main, the prophet is talking about a new way to act in the affairs of justice. We get a sense of the imperatives that the Gospel writers will later hold out regarding the poor and needy of the earth.
Beginning with vs. 6 he recites a list of things that are so out of order that there is no question that this will be in fact, all new. The lion and the lamb, the cow and a bear and a child and a cobra. All these things would easily be seen as impossible under the then state of things. This is a wonderful way to describe how radically different the world will become.
However, Isaiah in this particular citation makes no mention of anything that Israel might do or need to do in preparation. Simply said, it is God who will make this happen.
All of these things from the writings of Isaiah seem to speak to a political solution for the nation of Israel. A solution that we will see from this side of the resurrection, so completely different.
Enter now the Gospel for the second week of Advent. We hear the story of John the Baptist and his emergence from the wilderness. We hear something that Isaiah does not address in the text noted above. John tells the hearer to repent. In vs. 3 he cites Isaiah 40:3 to prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight the way for the Lord.
He identifies things and texts that require something of the hearer. Things that we need to be aware of in our Advent time of waiting and preparation.
John speaks to the sin of his day and admonishes the religious leaders with specific things that need to be done before the imminent arrival of this new Kingdom which he says is, “at hand”.
John goes no further to describe who this person will be, but he is clear that it is not himself and whoever may come, he (John) will not be worthy to untie his sandal.
So again, with this second text, we wait. Two different statements of what is to come, separated by hundreds of years. We can expect the greatness of the Lord and a new way of our relating to God and one another.
What are we expecting in this Advent season. Do we really believe that God will do a new thing? Who are we to look to? What are we to do in preparation?
Yes, there might be cookie baking and trees to trim and lights to put out in the front yard; but what are John and Isaiah telling us to prepare for? Perhaps we should guard against the self-imposed busyness of the season and hear again the words of those who would prepare us for God in Jesus to enter our lives
The Kingdom of God is at hand and again this year we wait and celebrate; celebrate and wait.
God is about to do a new thing but now it is we ourselves who are a part of this new thing. No longer any history; this is now stuff. What will you do in these next weeks to prepare for, and celebrate the coming again of Christ in our lives?
Lord God, help us to see your activity in our lives. Help us to be receptive to what you have new for us as we prepare for your coming again in this Advent season.