This week's text is Isaiah 12:1-6
There's an interesting turn in the beginning of this text where the prophet recognizes that God was angry with the him and yet God turned away from anger and instead comforted the prophet. When the prophet was interpreting God's anger and/or compassion, the people were in the thick of determining a political alliance. They were in danger of exile to Assyria and the people needed an ally. Would they choose Egypt? Would they choose another nearby power? Or would they look to God for salvation?
What does it mean to accept God as an ally? Or to make God an ally? How does one create an alliance with God? And is this alliance with God one of many alliances we have? In other words, do we have an alliance with God that is secondary to other alliances? Or perhaps our alliance with God is primary but do we have other alliances as backup?
The prophet has accepted an alliance with God it seems. And believes that the people will "draw water from the wells of salvation with joy." It's this image that I'm most drawn to. Drawing, drinking, being refreshed from the wells of salvation.
When humans are afraid of a force that is poised to overtake them, like the prophet and Israel were of Assyria, the image of being refreshed with water provides a tremendous respite for their fear. And refreshed by salvation, well that sounds like fear is assuaged. It gets better when we realize the word for well that is used here is more accurately interpreted as fountain.
A fountain is moving water. A fountain, as Marcus Hong described is a "gift" whereas humans must dig a well. I like the distinction for sure. The waters of salvation are a gift. And the moving water in the the Christmas story is the waters of childbirth.
Not to get too off track here but my husband is always asking me when I'm going to give the sermon where I explain that if there was a little drummer boy at Jesus' birth, Mary most certainly would have said, "someone take away that kid's drum!"
Water flowed from Mary and from this fountain came Jesus. Ten fingers and ten toes. Two eyes and two ears and one nose. Heart that loves, lungs that breathe. Hands that healed and legs that walked in and out of people's lives. This vulnerable package of salvation was wrapped in the flowing waters of childbirth. Incarnation came from the waters of childbirth. The fountain flowed and we receive this gift with joy.
What does it mean for us to draw this tiny, vulnerable baby from the fountain of childbirth? What is this salvation that we hold in our arms when we treasure the Christ child? And by drawing this salvation from the fountain, how do we see ourselves being in an alliance with God? God is not angry anymore. God has shown compassion. God has chosen aligned with us humans. Have we aligned ourselves with God?
This week's text is Luke 1:68-79.
It's hard to talk about peace this week when three gunmen opened fire in a center that helps people with developmental disabilities killing 14 and injuring several more. It's hard to quote that God "has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered God's holy covenant, the oath that God swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear."
It's hard on a day like today, a day where there has been more shootings in our country than there have been days in this year, to stand on this assertion that God has remembered a covenant to our ancestors in faith by granting that we be rescued from our enemies. It may be hard to know exactly who our enemies are but it's clear we are not without enemy, right? I mean... right? Do we think of people as enemies or are ideals, principles, systems our enemies? I'm not sure on a day like today.
It's hard on this Wednesday, day 4 of Advent to imagine serving God without fear when fear has been the driving force between any news story for several weeks. And not unreasonable fear - the world has become so unsafe. From our neighbors near and far - I say near and far because let's be honest we don't really know our near neighbors and we think we know our far neighbors. Serve God without fear?
What was Zechariah thinking saying something like this in response to the birth of his son, John? Was it that elated joy that new father's experience when they see a gooey little person enter the world and they realize the weight of responsibility that they never thought possible while at the same time feeling more joy and love than they ever thought possible? Maybe that's what was happening - maybe Zechariah was a typical father, having experienced a miracle and he extrapolated the faithfulness of God in this miraculous act of childbirth.
Furthermore, Zechariah (and every parent I know) looks at their sleeping newborn who still looks a little alien but somehow has their nose and their partner's mouth. Parents look on their children and can either give into tremendous fear of having to raise their children amidst the many enemies, known and unknown or they dig deep and find their footing with trust in God and God's promises.
Yep, that's what I hear - Zechariah with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat working out fear of a world that is unknown and unsafe. Zechariah and Elizabeth just brought a new baby into the world - and they were people of faith. People of deep faith, deep faith given to them generation after generation. God was faithful. God will be faithful. And you, they say to John, "you will be a witness to this faithfulness." You just wait and see.
Dear God of Zechariah and Elizabeth, I don't know if I have their kind of faith in my world of enemies today. But I'm so deeply grateful for their story. Help me to witness to this tender mercy of yours. When the sun comes up, remind me that you bring light to darkness every day. Guide my feet into the way of peace. Amen.
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