Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted. The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on your ancestral house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.
-Isaiah 7: 10-17
Who is the Baby Jesus to you?
Is he a sweet child, innocent and perfect, round and dimpled, who resembles a cherub?
Is he a refugee child, who his mother gives birth to in an unlikely place, in a land that is not her own?
Is he a saving child, the one who will grow into the adult Jesus who is a teacher, a prophet, a healer, a faith-based rabble-rouser?
Is he a wanted child, an illegitimate child, a child born to a virgin, a single mom, a family on the run?
Is he the hope of the world? Born in a manger, or born in a cave? Born in an inn, or born in the backyard?
Who is the Baby Jesus to you?
Isaiah gives us the prophecy of a child who is gift to the world from God, the child who will be called Immanuel. Isaiah, despite the war and violence of his day, believes in the future. He believes in tomorrow’s. Isaiah believes in God, acting in the world.
There is quote I look at often in meditation:
The future is what holds the present accountable. And that’s the leader’s job – to be mindful of the future, to hold the future in front of the community he or she leads and keep them accountable for living into it. Nor is it just any future any more than it is any destination. There are lots of possible futures a community may strive toward, and it’s the leader’s job to help the community discern which is the preferred future. Which future is most life-giving? Which aligns most clearly with the purpose and gifts of the community? Which makes sense in relation to the community’s past, even while it stretches the community in new ways? Which future, if we may be so bold, do we believe God is calling us toward if we are to live into the promise God holds for each and all of us?
This Advent season I am deep in prayer about the future, and the role of a leader to hold that future out in front of a community. What is the future you and I most want to hold out in front of the community’s we keep as leaders called by God? What is the vision of God we want to hold most tightly to?
It’s a question I struggle with when confronted with the horror of Aleppo, Syria, or the pain in our own country, or the individual losses I know around me. I find myself mourning so many of these things this year; especially the way that indescribable sin and evil has crept into our lives and our world. Too often we have looked the other way and made it an easy and comfortable home. Like so many of you I am haunted by the harm we are doing to the children of our world.
The call to me, the call of the future in Advent, is to interrupt that evil, that violence; to cast it out and to be the people of God in new and fresh ways. The question of “What Would Jesus Do?” is an apt one for this time we are in. Isaiah reminds us of a child who will not just know the difference between good and evil – but bring it to fruition in the world in saving ways.
There is a prayer we sing in our home in the nine nights before Christmas that began this past Friday. I offer it to you, because it is the prayer that I think of most these days:
Dulce Jesus Mio
Mi Niño adorado
Ven a nuestras almas
Ven, no tarde tanto!
My sweet Jesus
The Child that I adore
Come into our souls (hearts, world, lives, etc….)
Do not delay!
Blessings to you in this final week before Christmas….
+ Art from Judith Mehr
+ Information about PCUSA ministry partners in Syria