Narrative Lectionary Reflection for December 14, 2014,
Third Week of Advent
I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. Isaiah 42:6-7
The season of Advent is gaining speed with Christmas now just over the horizon, the world continues to spin and hurt and suffering seem to be everywhere one turns, and our lives are filled to the brim with busyness, with things to do and places to be. It is easy to lose our footing, to become lost in the midst of this season, and to forget. In a sense, we are not unlike the people to whom the Deutero-Isaiah prophet speaks. Yes, it is easy to lose hope, to become cynical, to fall into bitter complaint about the state of everything from empty pews in church buildings to the churlish behavior of elected officials. We remember that exile, what the people to whom this prophet speaks have experienced, can be a state of mind as well as a state of being. Some days it might even seem like a better option to stay in bed and pull the covers over one’s head with a “why even bother” attitude. And it is on this no-so-happy note, that I bring you the good news in this lesson and a reminder of the hope to which we are called.
We need this good news today. It’s been a tough stretch for many people in our congregations–and for many leaders. Thankfully, God provides a word of hope, a glimpse of grace, and Spirit breath. It’s always there because God is ever with us. Sometimes we just need to lift our eyes, open our ears, and tear away those protective layers in which we wrap our hearts. Read this week’s lesson again. Read it out loud. Read it again and again until the words fill the broken and bruised parts of you. Fill yourself with he good news that God is God and is always doing something new.
In a few short days we will celebrate Christmas and remember how God came into our world as a helpless, tiny gurgling human infant. We will recall how Jesus was born not in the halls of the rich and powerful but on the margins and outskirts of society, quietly sneaking up on humankind in a way that only the least and oddest could comprehend. “Here,” recounts the prophet, “is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations” (Is. 42:1). God will not allow God’s people to be quenched, although we may be bruised. God will provide.
God has provided God’s own self in the form of Jesus to be our light and our hope and our salvation. When we read this passage and other image-rich words from this prophet, we can know that we are part of the equation. We are called to work alongside the suffering servant, to know that we too have been called in righteousness, taken by hand and kept close in divine love and provision. Jesus Christ has opened our eyes, has released us from the prisons of our own insecurities and failings, brought us into divine light, and included us in the dance.
Yes, these are words we need to hear today. They are life-giving water to parched lips and hungry souls. Justice will come it will be established. We wait for the teaching even as the waters of justice lap away at the coastlands, shifting the sands and reordering the world. Yes, dear friends, in case you had any questions or were feeling wearied and faint, take hope from this lesson. Now go and pass this hope to others. Be a steward of hope and good news for a world that sorely needs some. Invite everyone to come and see, to join the dance of the one who was, who is, and who is to come. Blessings on your preaching and teaching.
For the prayers of intercession today, consider lighting tealights for each petition. Invite several people to lift up the different petitions and then light a tealight or other small candle. Have extras on hand so that anyone who wishes may offer a spoken or silent petition and light a candle. Remind people before the prayer of the image in verse three “a dimly burning wick he will not quench.” We may feel that our individual wicks are dim and that we don’t have much power to bring about change or hope on our own. However, when we lift our prayers together, we not only bring them to Lord but also stand in solidarity with one another. We are strengthened when our tiny lights stand side by side and cast a brighter light to dispel the darkness around us. Use a simple song between petitions both to give people time to move in the space and to light the candles. Consider “Lord, listen to your children praying” or “O, Lord hear my prayer.”
Where’s God? Bring a “Where’s Waldo” book with you to worship and invite the children to find Waldo in one of the pictures. Next read excerpts from this week’s lesson that help to identify God (creator of the heavens and earth, teacher, one who brings justice, one who opens the eyes of the blind, who sets prisoners free, the Lord, Jesus, Spirit). Invite the children to look around and find places where they see God in the worship space. Then invite them to go into the world this week looking for signs of God all around them. Encourage them to keep a list and bring it back to share. You might even invite parents to help the children by taking pictures with them and making a photo montage. Close the time with a simple prayer acknowledging that God is all around us and always with us. Ask that God will help the children to see signs of the Lord everywhere during the coming week.
Photos: Lau Lau Chan, Wolfgang Staudt, and Keoni Cabral, Creative Commons License. Thanks!)