Sunday marked the beginnings of a new “liturgical” year. For those of us who pray Morning and Evening Prayer each day, for the next few weeks, we are immersed in the world, the mindset, the vision, the theology and the prayer of a prophetic seer named Isaiah whose readings can be hauntingly beautiful, thought provoking and deeply disturbing.
Isaiah is the one who gets quoted at Christmastime: you know all about beating “swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks,” lions and lambs lying down for a mutual nap, and the promise of “a child is born for us; a son is given to us.” Even folks with a peripheral relationship to Christian worship have heard this voice.
But there is this other side of this Isaiah who speaks to a modern world (just as he confronted the political and religious authority of his own). He voices the cry of a God who is frustrated by the abandonment of us who should live as God’s own people: (“The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib…my people do not understand”). He speaks for a God who is unimpressed with human worship services or the empty chatter that pretends to be prayer. (“What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices…”)
Hear the voice of one “crying in the wilderness” as it were – one who says that the greatest gift of this season is what has been given to us. He simply reminds us that there is not one of us who doesn’t need to be re-opened to God’s grace and to be re-transformed by the one who is called “Emmanuel – God is with us.” And this can happen!
So … do you want to do something of value during this so-called “holiday” season? Here’s a challenge: Hear the voice: “cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” In other words: It is time to be what Christ has been calling us to be. And what better time than now? I think of Isaiah as God’s Christmas gift to me to help me sort out what is truly important.