Scott Sanders launches our Advent series by getting lost in the bush and finding the humble path - at expense of his pride.
Brad Chilcott is a Pastor at Activate Church in Adelaide, and the founder of Welcome to Australia.
Today's reading is Isaiah 12:2-6
I was once the celebrant for a particularly heartbreaking funeral - for a young mother who left behind four children - and after the ceremony a woman approached me to explain why she could be happy on this day. She’d said a certain prayer with the mother at one time in her life and so now she knew that “she was truly at peace - not in that other horrible place.” Her understanding of “salvation” was all about the time following death and the simple words one need say to secure a place in whatever she understood “heaven” to be.
But that day my mind was occupied by what the collective “we” could do to end family violence, the disease of addiction and what it would look like for these four children to have been “saved” from the impact of the choices of the adults in their lives. I wondered how their lives and their well-being may have been different.
We all read what we want to into passages like this one in Isaiah. This is a praise song written for a nation to sing together once their enemies have been destroyed. The words have a poetic beauty, and we have a yearning to be “saved” whether it is from a perceived distance from God, from the uncertainty around what happens when you die, from oppression we may be experiencing or from the pain of our personal circumstances. And so these words become our cry – “surely God is my salvation” – as we express our hopes, fears and then gratitude – “God has done great things” – as we feel like we are able to trust, to stand, to have overcome.
Looking at the life of Jesus, I see an anticipation of the deeper enemies that will be defeated and give cause for praise. Cultural enemies like materialism, bigotry and exclusion. Globally systemic enemies like violence, poverty, inequality, greed, colonialism and patriarchy. Personal enemies like insecurity, pride, selfish ambition and unforgiveness.
As I read this passage in Isaiah my heart yearns for the now-but-not-yet certainty that we will thank God together as these enemies fall one by one – in our lives, churches, communities and world.
This Advent, as we come together, let us be a part of the salvation God is working in our world, as we partner with God in setting the world to right.
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2 See, God has come to save me.
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.”
3 With joy you will drink deeply
from the fountain of salvation!
4 In that wonderful day you will sing:
“Thank the Lord! Praise his name!
Tell the nations what he has done.
Let them know how mighty he is!
5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done wonderful things.
Make known his praise around the world.
6 Let all the people of Jerusalem shout his praise with joy!
For great is the Holy One of Israel who lives among you.”