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Our theme for this Advent is “Do Not Be Afraid.” It’s heavily present in today’s readings. The reading from the prophet Isaiah begins with a bold declaration of divine presence and action. But it’s unclear who the anointed one whom the spirit is ordaining and moving into action. The “me” seems to be the speaker, Isaiah. But we’ve also long read it as the Messiah (a Hebrew word which means “the anointed one.” Jesus evens identifies himself as this anointed one when he reads this same scripture publicly as told in Luke 4. Where there brokenness was accepted, joy will be practiced.
The troubles and needs in the time of Isaiah (roughly 500 BCE) are daunting. God’s anointed is sent not just to put a band aid on things but to reverse them. It’s a revolution! a lifting up, empowering the oppressed, captives, imprisoned and all who mourn. Though unstated, in order to reach those persons, God’s anointed must, of necessity, confront the perpetrators and sources of oppression, marginalization, hopelessness and despair.
We understand this genesis of this love revolution to happen in the birth story told in Luke 2 – the story of Christmas. But where Isaiah is detailed and dirty, real and easily pictured. Luke’s vision is glossy and smooth. There’s no mention of the arduous journey to Bethlehem; the pain and mess of childbirth; the smell of the shepherds. But there is lot’s of joy.
While we see the connection between the two writings of God showing up to make all things new, loving us in and through our fear into something new; they also seem quite different. It’s mainly because of how we’re repackaged the story of Christmas to make it beautiful and simple, easy to fit on a greeting cards. But revolutions are always messy. Think of how we need our world to be turned right side up today to get us out of the mess of COVID-19. Not neat and tidy in any way.
Questions for Examen