A Homily for Wednesday the Third Week in Advent
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
A time is coming. That’s what we’ve been reading about for the past several weeks. The end of the age. The apocalypse. The eschaton. The parousia. The last day. We’ve heard of dire warnings, and we’ve been waiting for “doom or a breakthrough from heaven.”
The doom part is easy to imagine. We experience so much of that in our daily lives and in the newspapers. Look at Yemen, at Syria, at South Sudan, at the internment camps on our own southern border, the drug crisis overwhelming our populations, the ever-worsening predictions about our climate. These crises and many more are seemingly omnipresent.
The biblical writers were all too familiar with doom. The prophets spoke for the Lord in times of warfare, of impending disaster, of extreme poverty, famine, and drought. Jeremiah wept; Ezekiel embraced the violent absurdity of his age. Isaiah, our guide these past few weeks, spoke on the eve of the Assyrian invasion. Last week, we heard Isaiah’s foreboding words of desolate cities.
And it’s easy tonight to hear bits of that doom even in Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming breakthrough from heaven: plundering the Philistines, destroying the sea of Egypt.
But what does the breakthrough from heaven look like?
We got a brief glimpse the first Wednesday in Advent: an age when our Lord reigns in righteousness and swords are beat into plowshares.
How does this peaceful image, though, relate to the coming military action described in Isaiah 11?
What we see tonight is the promise of military deliverance from an oppressive empire. Facing the impending destruction of northern Israel and the brutal submission of southern Judah, Isaiah draws on biblical history.
“This time will be rough,” he says, “but we’ve been there before. Like the Exodus of old, God will deliver us. As Moses led us through the sea of Egypt on dry land and as Joshua led us into the land of promise, so too will a new king deliver us from this new captivity. And the people who have scattered to the ends of the earth will be reunited.”
Time and time again, God’s people have needed that message: facing down the Assyrians. And then the Babylonians. And then the Greeks. And the Romans.
Time and time again, the Lord promises to rescue the heirs of Abraham and Sarah and reunite them from the exile.
More than that, though, we face down the powers and principalities of this world: the lust for power, the avarice, illness, sin, and death. We are enslaved to these powers. We live in the exile of this age. But God promises us a new Exodus — when the Son of David will lead us all to a peaceable kingdom.
On that day, in that new and glorious age, the ways of war will be finished. There will be no need to plunder or to destroy. On that day, Isaiah says only verses before tonight’s reading, we will enter the peaceable kingdom:
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.