Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
They shall build up the ancient ruins,
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
For I the Lord love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants shall be known among the nations,
and their offspring among the peoples;
all who see them shall acknowledge
that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.
Passages like Isaiah 61:1-4 and 8-11 can be difficult to read without getting the feeling that something is not quite complete: in a world where economic injustice and suffering occurs in our city, it is difficult to hear a prophet announcing that it is “the year of the Lord’s favor” and “the day of vengeance for our God; to comfort all who mourn.” In a city where there are those who are hungry, those who are not getting adequate education, and those who are the victims of greed, it is difficult to believe that there is a God who reigns, that loves justice and hates robbery and wrongdoing. When will we be able to see the fruits of the year of the Lord’s favor here on earth?
But Advent, like the Christian faith, is about waiting: waiting faithfully, waiting patiently, until Christ comes again in glory.
In the meantime, how is a Christian to wait? I believe the answer comes in finding the sacred within the everyday. God seems nearer when our dinner tables become altars, our doorways welcome strangers (and sometimes angels), and our homes are once again made ready for the arrival of the Baby Jesus. When we wait, we slow down, and when we slow down, we become aware of the signs around us that point God’s righteousness and praise springing up before all nations.