December 16 Thursday
Today is Beethoven’s birthday. 240 years ago, in 1770 Germany, a baby boy was born. He grew up to be a musical genius, and not a particularly nice guy. But surely anyone with a prodigious gift for music, who lost his hearing, would be more than a little grouchy. What on earth does Beethoven have to do with the Isaiah passage today? Take a closer look at the images in the verses.
The prophet comes alone, from above: “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him….” But the response of the people is a group event that centers on singing! “Together they sing for joy. Break forth together into singing.” I can hear the final chorus of the 9th Symphony ringing in my ears. We know it as the “Ode to Joy,” or “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” in our hymnals. I wonder how Beethoven would feel to know that humanity still listens to, sings, plays, and loves his music. Maybe he expected no less. But maybe he’d be thrilled. Maybe he would know it was all worthwhile, to have lived his life and made his contribution, even with the constant annoyance of imperfection.
At Advent, I always feel the thread of time and history and calling extending all the way to us–the ones who are living now, breathing in and out each day, and coming to our church home on the corner of 8th and H Streets in DC to worship and to work. The Isaiah passage was written with a specific context in mind, and later we extended the messages and images of the verses to Jesus as the fulfillment of those promises. But what if we too, each one of us is to be the fulfillment of these images and promises? That’s our job, I think. As Baptists, we treasure our “priesthood of the believer” tradition. Maybe we should call it “prophet-hood of the believer.” Like Isaiah and Jesus Christ, you and I are called to walk on a higher plane, alone, coming down into common everyday life, bringing good tidings of God’s comfort, power and salvation.
But we also fulfill the other role: we respond together actively, with joy and with singing. Christianity and church life are a bit different from today’s spectator sports or big screen entertainment experiences.
So let’s roll up our sleeves and boldly step out with messages of good tidings of the power of God. Let’s respond joyfully as we live out the fulfillment of God’s promises in some very concrete ways this season and in the coming year. Let’s attend worship each week. Let’s give generously of our resources. Let’s make a commitment of time and take on a small piece of responsibility here at our church home, whether it’s committee work, gardening, or singing. There’s genius in those everyday things, too.
Have a blessed Advent day today. Amen.