It was a dark time in a dark world. The prophet Isaiah prays a desperate prayer asking God to rip open the heavens and come down and heal the nation, to bring peace on earth and joy to the people; a prayer asking God to establish a new order that will override the destructiveness of those in power. It’s a prayer of hope that God will come in the same liberating way as God had come in the past.
However, the mood of the prayer changes. Hopeful expectation turns into dreadful despair as the sins and transgressions of the people are considered.
The term “unclean” means “ritually unacceptable.” It is not believed that Israel is a community where God’s presence is willing to come. Like a “filthy cloth,” the nation is so impure and contaminated that no one would dare touch it.
Like “a faded leaf,” it’s in danger of rotting away. Because the people have called on false gods, there seems to be no room for the God of truth. Because they have turned their backs on social justice, there seems to be no place for the God of mercy. Because the people have chosen a way of violence, there seems to be no way for the God of peace. There seems to be no hope.
But then, the mood changes once more with one of the most hopeful words in the scriptures: “YET!”
YET, you are our Parent. YET, you are our potter. YET, we are all the work of your hand. YET, we are your people.
Isaiah hopefully asserts: YET, you made us, you own us, you are responsible for us, we belong to you. Thus, we trust that you will indeed come again to love us, to save us, just as you have come in the past.
Advent is a time of celebrating this hopeful: “YET!”
It was a dark time in a dark world. The sick and injured were passed by on the other side by prominent men claiming to be religious. The poor were unfairly taxed. Foreigners, scapegoated. Women, objectified. Victims of abuse, stigmatized. Anyone different, marginalized. The entire nation, demoralized.
YET, a peasant girl named Mary carries hope in her womb and a song in her heart:
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant…
..he has scattered the proud…
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
This is the hope of Advent! The world seems dark, YET, the Light of the World is coming!
Later, the parents-to-be were on the road to pay taxes to a puppet king of an occupied land. The road was long, and being with child made the road especially difficult. And to make things more difficult, when it was time for the baby to be born, they discovered that there was no room in the inn.
There was no room. Sounds like the desperate prayer of Isaiah.
There was no room. There was no place. There was no way. There was no hope.
YET, as God had proved over and over throughout history, from the covenant of Abraham to the great Exodus, there is nothing in all of creation that can separate the world from God’s love. For God, would once again come! In spite of every demonic power that tried to thwart God’s coming, God came.
And the good news of this Advent season is that we know that God still comes. And there is nothing in all of creation, nor things above nor below, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor life nor death that can stop God from coming.
A church once presented a Christmas play. You know the kind. I used to be in one every year when I was growing up. Three boys playing shepherds are carrying long sticks wearing bath robes with towels wrapped around their heads. And three more boys playing wise men wearing cardboard Burger-King crowns wrapped in Reynolds Wrap are carrying boxes decorated with left-over Christmas garland. They all walk up on the chancel, greet Mary and Joseph, and bow down before the baby Jesus.
Well, during one particular play, after the wise men and shepherds came and bowed before Jesus, a spokesperson for the wise men made the announcement: “We three kings have traveled from the East to bring the baby Jesus gifts of gold, circumstance and mud.” Of course, laughter filled the sanctuary.
But you know what they say: “out of the mouths of babes.”
In the circumstance of being told there is no room for you, there is no place for you, there is no way for you, and there is no hope for you, through Christ, God came to Mary and Joseph and God comes to us and says: “YET!”
The good news of Advent is that God comes to us in all of our circumstances and offers us the assurance that there is no circumstance on earth or in heaven that is beyond God’s amazing grace.
And coming as a human being, coming into the world as a fleshly body, a body made up of dust and water, God comes and joins us in our mud.
Through Christ, God came into and still comes into our muck of pain and sickness and offers comfort and healing.
Through Christ, God came into and still comes into our muck of loneliness and fear and shares divine presence and a peace beyond understanding.
The world says there is no room; things are not going to get any better. The world says there is no way; the good old days are long gone. The world says there is no place; evil will get the best of you. The world says there is no hope; peace on earth and good will shall never happen.
YET, a young woman named Mary goes into labor as God says: “I am working all things together for the good!”
YET, a baby is born in the darkness as God says: “The best days of life are always before you.”
YET, a child cries in the night as God says: “Although you cannot go back to the good old days, good new days are coming!
The world says: “There is no room. You will never amount to anything.”
The world says: “There is no way. Sin will always get the best of you.”
The world says: “There is no place for you. Nobody really cares about you.”
The world says: “For you, there is no room, no way, no place, no hope.”
YET, a baby is wrapped in bands of cloth born to underserving, unwed teenagers in an occupied land, as God says: “I love you just as you are, and I come to wrap you in my mercy, clothe you with my grace. I know your sins and I forgive you. I will always be with you and never away from you. I will always be for you and never against you. I will always stay by your side fighting for you, even if it means dying for you.”
The world says: “Racism will never end. Bigotry will not cease. Misogyny isn’t going away. There is no way this country will ever come together. There is no room for diversity. There is no place for equality. There is no hope for unity.”
YET, a brown-skinned baby’s birth to a Hebrew woman is announced by angels: “I am bringing you good news of great joy for ALL the people. For you, ALL of you, a baby is born who is Christ the Lord, and through him there is no longer Jew or gentile, slave or free, male or female, for all are one!”
The good news of Advent is while the world often seems dark, YET the light of God will not be diminished.
Fake news seems to divide us, YET the good news that unites us will not suppressed.
The poor always seem to get the raw end of the deal, YET the justice of God will not be defeated.
The sound of gun violence is deafening, YET the Word of God will not be silenced.
Our leaders rule with fear-mongering, YET the Prince of Peace will not be conquered.
The powerful lie to push their agendas, YET truth cannot be hidden.
Hate seems to have its way, YET love will not lose.
Sin seems to get the best of us, YET grace will not fail.
Despair seems to overwhelm, YET hope will not die.
The nation feels like a faded leaf that’s about to rot away, YET the kingdom of God will reign forever and ever.
It’s Advent, and our world grows darker; YET, it’s Advent, and the Light of the World is coming!
And the darkness will not overcome it.
It’s Advent. God is acting. The Spirit is moving. Christ is coming. Hallelujah.