December 1, 2019 - First Sunday in Advent
“Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord”
This is an urgent plea to all nations and peoples in this Advent season of 2019. It is a walk away from the brutality, divisiveness, and meanness that has infected international norms, domestic politics, and even family relations today. How can we as people of faith resist the pull towards the vortex of fear and defensiveness that seem to be the “new normal” in these times?
Here Isaiah speaks a word not only to the nation of Israel but to each one of us. He calls us to both listening and labor, to both quietness and action. First, he calls us to be in a time of quietness. He calls us to the “house of the Lord, …that he may teach us his ways.” (2:3) I think for us that means participation in corporate worship, meditation, and serious study of the Word. Isaiah reminds us of the deep blessing of a Sunday morning in a church sanctuary. A respite from the noise of the world to listen for the voice of God.
Second, Isaiah calls us to a time of action. He calls us to the vocation of a blacksmith! He envisions a time when “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” (2:4) The “world’s normal” is hostility and anger. “God’s normal” is a kind of agrarian – or urban - tranquility instead of warfare. “God’s normal” is neighborly cooperation instead of cutthroat competition. If we mean it when we sing “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me,” that points to the art of friendship-making instead of winning arguments. It means looking for the best in others, not the worst. Peacemaking begins on the simplest human level.
Prayer: Great God, you are coming in power to rule the nations through your Son, Jesus of Nazareth. Give us eyes and ears to be alert to your presence among us, beckoning us along your pathway. In steady quietness and unflinching confidence, may your Spirit hold us close as we walk in your light; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Rev. Paul Randall, Parish Associate at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Albany, has served Albany Presbytery as moderator and is currently the Chair of the Peacemaking Task Force. Paul retired in 2002 after serving churches in Ohio for 40 years. He and his wife Margaret live at Beverwyck Retirement Community in Slingerlands. They have two children and two grandchildren.