Advent Devotion 12-19-19

Thursday, December 19, 2019                                                      

 Isaiah 35:3-10

3 Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
4 Say 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.’
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then 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;
7 the 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.
8 A 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.
9 No 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.
10 And 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.

Good Surprises

I was 8 months pregnant with John, who was due at the end of January.  It was December 19th and I was getting ready to host a party for about 25 people at our house.  I was sitting at our kitchen table opening a Christmas card that someone had sent us.  The printed text said, “May your Christmas be filled with surprises.”  The friend who had sent it had taken a pen and written “good” between the words “with” and “surprises”.  Obviously, life can be full of surprises and that’s not always a good thing!  Perhaps, then, it was ironic that right after I read that card and laughed about the penned in “good”, I heard a rush and a crash and a jingle and the sound of breaking glass. I rushed into the living room and found that our Christmas tree had fallen over.  Pine needles and ornaments, some broken, some not, were strewn across our living room floor and water was pouring out of our tree stand.  I burst into hysterical laughter.  This was not a “good” Christmas surprise.

Our reading for today is about a surprise.  But it is a good surprise.  It is believed to have been written to the Jewish people in exile in Babylon and it shares surprising news with them.  The God that they thought had abandoned them was going to act on their behalf.  God was going to bring down empires, and raise up nations, in order to bring them home.  God was going to feed them, was going to shelter them, was going to fill them with joy and with a new song!

Some of them were still waiting for God when this surprising good news broke into their reality and changed their lives and their destinies.  But some people were not.  Some people had given up on waiting for the Lord.  For some of them, their faith had faltered.  For some of them, they were blind to the possibility that God would still work in the world.  For some of them, they were deaf to the stories of God’s deliverance and power, they couldn’t hear it, they couldn’t believe it.  Some of them were so broken by disappointment, by shattered hopes, that it was as though they were lame.  And some of them, were silenced by their grief, for their ravaged city, for their shattered temple, for their own enslavement.  These were the exiles who wrote the words we find in Psalm 137:

On the willows there, we hung up our harps, for our captors asked us for songs and our tormentors asked us for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”  How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

To these exiles, broken, shattered people, many of whom had even given up on waiting for God’s deliverance, this surprising good news came.  And this was the promise that was made:

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

God was coming for them, to heal them, to restore them, to give them joy.

What was good news for them, is good news for us as well.  The good news to the exiles in Babylon reminds us that sometimes God comes to us with surprising blessing.

Let us pray.  God of good surprises, give us eyes to see the wonders of your love, ears to hear the stories of your presence, strength to do the work that you have called us to do, and voices to sing of your goodness.  Amen.


Submitted by:  Pastor Amanda Warner