A Homily for the Fourth Week of Advent
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, the One who redeems the House of Jacob. Amen.
It’s a long story, with many twists and turns, and started long ago. But it went off the rails so early.
The Lord called Abraham and Sarah, and God promised to bless the world through them. But they sinned, turning instead to their own schemes, abusing Hagar and banishing her with Ishmael, Abraham’s first-born son.
The Lord called to Jacob, and blessed him, but he fought with his brother, and his sons betrayed each other.
Of their descendants came twelve tribes, and the Lord called to the entire people of Israel, but they fought amongst themselves, and turned to other gods, and they split between north and south, and their kings led them astray.
And then came the cataclysm, the Assyrians, and erased Israel from the map. And then came Babylon, and destroyed the temple, and took Judah into exile.
The night of this world is long and dark.
But the tide is turning.
We’ve passed the longest night. We’re two days past the solstice, and the days are now growing ever so slightly longer, a sure sign that the withered grass will grow green again, that the baren trees will bring forth new shoots.
The world is changing around us, giving way to something new.
And so it was that Isaiah prophesied of old: “Shall not Lebanon in a very little while become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be regarded as a forest?”
Lebanon, that place of mountains and towering cedars, shall become flat and farmland, and the flat farmland shall become like Lebanon. The world will change and give way to something new. It’s an image of radical change, of a literal lifting up and making low.
Nature and Isaiah illustrate the change that God will bring, a time of life and growth.
But Isaiah points to a more radical change – something even more earth-shaking than a sudden change in geography. Something is coming which will change everything: the deaf shall hear, the eyes shall see, the poor will exult in the Lord. Tyranny, injustice, and evil shall pass away.
On that day, the cataclysm shall be undone and the children of Jacob who suffered under the hands of the Assyrians shall be redeemed. The Lord God of Israel will work these mighty deeds.
But this is not just a promise to a single people. We have been grafted into Israel through Christ, and the Lord promised to bless the entire world through the descendants of Abraham. The day is coming, and will indeed soon be at hand, when the Lord God will come and establish the Kingdom of heaven.
The tide turns at Bethlehem, when God takes on human flesh. And over the course of his earthly life, our Lord brings with him the Kingdom of God, working miracles and forgiving sins, changing the world. Even in the darkest hour, after Golgotha, when all seemed lost, the Light of the World shone in the darkness. The tomb emptied, and death’s defeat was guaranteed. Then came the Ascension and the descent of the Spirit at Pentecost, equipping the Church for ministry, to proclaim this Kingdom that is erupting all around us. But still we wait, with Isaiah and the heirs of Abraham, for the last day, when Christ will return in final victory.
The tide is turning, and all of creation testifies in brilliant witness to the coming of our Lord! The light is shining brighter now, piercing the darkness. The One born in Bethlehem, the Incarnate Word of God, the Light not overcome by the Darkness, is coming some day, and soon, to usher in a new Kingdom where the hungry will be fed, he blind will see, the infirm will run, the deaf will hear, the mute will speak. On that day, the lowly will be lifted up and the lofty brought low. On that day, the powers of sin and death shall be vanquished. On that day, the One who redeemed Abraham shall reign in victory.