Born in a Messed Up Place
First Reading for the First Sunday of Advent (Year A)
Isaiah 2:1-5 reads like hope. All nations gather to walk in God's ways of love and justice. Weapons are turned into tools for farming and cultivating the earth. War is no longer taught. The image is beautiful. This is what Advent is about: looking forward to when God will make all things right.
Rewind just a few verses and one sees that Isaiah's vision is born in a time where the opposite is true. The prophet (problematically) calls the city a whore. He states that, once a home of justice and righteousness, it is now a community filled murderers. Everyone is looking to make that extra buck. The orphans are abandoned. The widows are ignored. Everything is broken.
That foundation does a few things to 2:1-5. On one hand, it makes the future vision shine all the more brightly. Light's impact is all the more dramatic when it pierces pitch darkness. Yet on the other hand, it makes this future hope seem all the more unrealistic. How can this be?
The first Sunday of Advent centers around the idea of hope. We get to travel back in time and look forward to the birth of Jesus with hope. We return to our present day and look forward to God making all things right with hope. But here is the thing about hope. Hope is always born in a messed up place. It comes to life in the places where everything is broken.
Isaiah's world was broken. The world into which Jesus was born, a world in which his people lived under the foot of a vicious empire, was broken. Our world is broken in a myriad of ways. And through all of this, Advent reminds us that rescue is coming. We look at the birth of Jesus and remember that hope is not just some pipe dream. Hope is true.
Hope is not just some wishful thinking. Hope has to be lived out. The passage today ends with "O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!" Hope must be lived out; otherwise it is not true transforming hope at all. We love others, work for justice, and point towards God because we hope that God will renew all things.
Yes, the world is a messed up place, but that is exactly where hope comes to life. May we come to life with hope.