What God appears to seek here is the concerted work toward justice, based on the certainty of God’s connection, pursued diligently and persistently.
The Lively Lectionary Old Testament is a blog that reflects on the Old Testament text from the Revised Common Lectionary each week.
The verse speaks of a time when the subjects of the text, namely Zebulun and Naphtali, were “in anguish” and were experiencing “gloom.” This period of Israelite history is known as the Syro-Ephraimitic War. Hence, gloom and contempt were the orders of the day. But now Isaiah promises light. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those living in the land of zalmaweth—light has shone on them” (Is.9:2).
“I will create you as a light to the nations in order that my work of saving may reach to the end of the earth” (Is.49:6). Here is nothing less than the ultimate statement of God’s desire for the whole creation.
If shalom means “unity,” and it does, and if the coming of Jesus at Bethlehem offers shalom to the world, and it does, then we have got to find a way to celebrate shalom this year rather than the Christmases we have witnessed over most of our lifetimes.
The belief in the actual virgin birth of Jesus of Nazareth became over many years one of the pillars of the evangelical faith, found among the “five fundamentals” of Christian belief in the early part of the 20th century.
This third Sunday in Advent continues the vivid descriptions that the world we currently see is not what God had in mind in creation, and that a new world is on its way. In this new world, “deserts will rejoice and bloom” in the face of the glory of YHWH (Is.35:1-2), “the weak will be strengthened,” the fearful will be protected from fear” (Is.35:3-4).
Could the embrace of the Holy Child urge us to cease our reliance on violence, on guns and mayhem, to address our world’s problems? Looking longingly at Is.2 may be one way to imagine the hopes of Christmas in new modes.
We need Advent as a reminder that Jesus’s coming makes great things possible. Light that first Advent candle, and imagine a world without swords and spears, without missilies and tanks, and look forward to the One who comes to bring light into the dark world, trailing plows and fruit hooks with him.
We have now arrived at the final Sunday before Advent, the day we now call “The Reign of Christ.” “I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be distressed; neither shall any be missing” (Jer.23:4).
The new heaven and earth will be a place of complete shalom, blessed unity where all, human and animal, find their place of peace and harmony.
God through Haggai promises that the “splendor of this new house” will outstrip the wonders of the old, when YHWH “shakes the heavens and the earth,” along with “all the nations, so that the treasure of all nations will come” (Hag.2:6-7).
YHWH provides visions and dreams for many, both old and young, and it is those dreams of a renewed earth that we must hear and enact if we are to avoid the locust plague of environmental disasters that we all face.