the prophet Isaiah can be grim. Today he reminds us about the bad things
that happen in this world that sometimes give us the feeling that God has
forsaken us. We can all relate to one or more of them. Imagine
the pain of a woman who longs for children but cannot conceive or a woman
who has been deserted by her husband because she did not conceive.
Imagine the suffering of a widow or a wife cast off for another woman.
Consider the shame we feel when we think of all the things we did when we
were young that we hope no one remembers. And reflect on the fear we
experience when the mountains and hills are shaken by earthquakes.
But Isaiah also reminds us that in the midst of all that frightens, grieves,
and shames us, God comes to remind us that God’s love will never leave us.
That should cause us to raise a glad cry and to break forth in jubilant song
as Isaiah exhorts us to do.
In other words, it is better that we learn to focus on what God does for
us than try to explain why bad things happen. The Psalm for today reminds
us that the Lord helps us get through the bad times. The Lord rescues
us from despair. The Lord even rescues us from God’s brief moments
of anger. And the Lord helps us through our periods of grief and mourning.
God’s enduring love transforms all this into dancing if we only ask for help.
This is the message of John the Baptist. Acknowledge the righteousness
of God. It is at hand. And so, at this time of the year, we repent,
or turn around, so we can see where God is at work in our lives instead of
when we feel abandoned.
As I prepare for Christ’s coming into my life anew this Advent season, I
find it helpful to briefly reflect on all the times I thought that God had
forsaken me. There was pain and suffering, but in the larger scheme
of things, I have an overwhelming sense of God’s great tenderness for me.
I feel like I have been rescued many times. I could write a country
western song entitled: “I’ve been rescued again, thank God Almighty,
I’ve been rescued again.” Some would call that a naïve optimism
or maybe a sign of good mental health. Others would say that I am just
lucky. So I am careful when I share my faith because there are folks
who seem to be born pessimists or skeptics. They are always crying
for help but they either don’t recognize it or they reject help when it arrives.
But people of faith believe that help is always on the way. During
the Advent season, the best gift we can give, I believe, is a witness to
our faith in the Lord of enduring Love. It is a time to break forth
in jubilant praise of the Lord who has pity on us and rescues us.
Thank God Almighty, we’ve been rescued again!