Sunday, December 11, 2016

Advent 3A

Isaiah 35:1-10

1The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus 2it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.

3Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you."

5Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; 7the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

8A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God's people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray. 9No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.

10And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

• Third Sunday of Advent! Two Sundays ago linear time and scripture opened a new year of grace to the church; we are the church, so that's a brand-new year for all of us. Gospel readings in this 12-month stretch mostly will be from Matthew. The liturgical year in general, Advent in particular are seasons of mercy and grace; Advent also brings a hint of judgment and self-examination.

• Remember for the Apostle Paul, the gospel, the good news is death and resurrection! A couple months ago we discussed how Christianity is not about immortality, about never ever dying. Scripture and our lives witness to death, destruction, desolation, loss, and then being resurrected to brand new life.

• Similar to last week, today's first reading, chapter 35 of 1st Isaiah, follows chapter 34 about horrendous environmental devastation.

• Throughout scripture – and all three sections of the Hebrew Bible book of Isaiah make it super-clear – the natural creation is not an incidental backdrop to the action, is not simply a stage, but lives and breathes as an integral part of God's story on earth. Scripture as a whole witnesses to the redemption, ransom, integrity, wholeness, restoration and resurrection of the natural world—not only human creatures. However, but the emphasis we often make on humanity may be valid, since for the most part creation needs redemption because of human sin, greed, and guilt.

• This whole passage is Messianic and eschatological! Check out Isaiah 35:5-6 – blind will see, deaf will hear, lame will walk, the dumb won't only speak, they will sing! Luke 7:18-23 and Matthew bring us:

Matthew 11

2When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" 4Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

• Two weeks ago on Advent 1, our Isaiah reading refers to God's people as "Jacob," a common scriptural convention. Do you remember Jacob's dream and God's promises to Jacob?
• Fertility of both land and descendants
• Homecoming on this earth
• God's constant, unmediated presence with Jacob wherever he traveled
• We discussed our call to be God's hands, feet, voice, and simply to be God's presence in the Spirit to everyone we meet, everywhere we go.

• Last week I asked about fave Advent and Christmas Songs. Julie mentioned White Christmas; Pastor Peg loves a certain musical setting of O Little Town of Bethlehem; Do you Hear What I Hear? is one of my special faves. All of those, along with songs people mentioned today – Good King Wenceslaus and We Three Kings, The First Noel, Angels we Have Hear on High – reveal Jesus' birth in history, in quantifiable time and space, in geographical longitude and latitude.

• In Isaiah 35 the desert itself rejoices with joy and singing! Psalms 96, 98, and 148 appointed for Christmas also are about trees and plants and oceans and rivers participating in the general all around joy and excitement of Jesus' Nativity!

• The water we import from out of state and from northern California makes it easy for us to forget we live in a coastal desert. Have you ever visited the desert (Anza-Borrego, maybe?) in spring bloom? Water makes the difference; water restores life! Water is life!

• Most likely all of us in the room and in the church make a point regularly to Save The Drop LA.

• Due to our lively discussion of Christmas music and Lessons & Carols that would be our main worship service this week, we didn't get to my notes about the desert throughout scripture (esp the exodus desert) or to further consideration of water as the womb of creation and re-creation.

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