Prophets...when the news is reassuring we love them. When the message is not one we want to hear, they are a nuisance-something to get rid of as quickly and as quietly as possible. Still, they keep popping up. Elijah and Elisha, Old Nathan, Samuel and of course Isaiah. Of the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures, there characters arrive out of the mists and come ot us with words that indicate NOT what God is thinking, pondering, considering as action...but instead what God is doing RIGHT NOW. We forget that the prophet speaks to the world he or she lives in and to the people gathered about them. Their message may be timeless, for God is timeless, but it is also immediate.
What makes Isaiah's words so important to us here and now when that sermon was preached millenia ago? God.
When the spirit alights on the prophet and anoints him or her to proclaim anything, then God is offering up to us through a human vessel the words of challenge or reassurance that we need here and now in order to live a faithful and committed life in relationship to the eternal Divine.
This Sunday, 3rd Advent, is a Sunday of refreshement. It is also a Sunday that will, as most do, continue to challenge us to live more fully into the mercy, hope and faith we have in Christ's living and dying for us. When the prophet proclaims the "year of the Lord's favor," his words are not just reassuring Israel in its Exile. They are also a promise to us. They are the words that Jesus reads from in the synagogue in Capernaeum at the outset of his earthly minsitry. They tell us all we need in order to see the arrival of the Messiah in our midst. There will be sight for the blind, hope for the poor. Prisoners will have their freedom proclaimed. It is the year of the Lord's favor. And then, in Luke, Jesus sits down. What has to be said, has been said. Could it be so simple?
The reality of our lives is that we seldom accept that promise at face value. We cover and obscure our faith with stress and worry, with strategic and tactical manouvers and responses to what we perceive as threats to our safety or to our intended goals.
The prophets, though, do not point to the future. They ask us to step firmly and with faith into the present. NOW is the time. NOW is the moment to come to terms with God and with each other.
The only person in this story who points to something that is not in the hear and now of God is John. In the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday, John is affirmed as one who comes from God...who knows the light and yet is not the light. He is the one who is to proclaim and POINT to the one who is about to come: the Lamb, Jesus.
In the rush to get to the holidays, in the rush to "get things done and taken care of" we too often forget to wait on God in the present moment. Now, though, is our opportunity. Even as we seek God's coming in Jesus the Christ, we are being invited to receive as well Isaiah's ancient/present promise of hope.
For now, let us hope in Christ.