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The Third Sunday in Advent A – December 11, 2022

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The Third Sunday in Advent A – December 11, 2022

The prophet Isaiah fills his book with depictions such as these, i.e., the total reversal of what is expected and anticipated in the normal course of things.  Isaiah prophesies that the Lord will stand the usual practices of the world on their heads.  Here, in our passage for today, Isaiah tells us that when the Lord works the barren desert will blossom (vs. 1), the weak will be made strong (vs. 3), the anxious will be reassured (vs. 4), the lame will leap, the mute will sing (vs. 6). Our God is Lord of the unexpected.  The proclamation of these reversals from the Lord has occupied this Advent’s Old Testament readings.  For the first Sunday in Advent (Is. 2:1-5), the nations will cease their continual warring and their instruments of war will be turned into tools of productivity.  For the second Sunday in Advent (Is. 11:1-10), the warring creatures—that is, predator and prey—will have peace with one another and tranquility will reign.  Coming up for the fourth Sunday in Advent (Is.7:10-17), the fortunes of the House of David will be reversed and the sign for this will be the most improbable of all:  a virgin shall give birth to a son!

All these prophecies of reversal are gathered up in the opening verses of the gospel of Luke.  There, John the Baptist preaches from Isaiah, chapter 40, declaring that the geographic landscape will be torn up as hills are leveled and valleys filled (cf. Lk. 4:1-6).  There, Mary, the virgin expectant mother of our Lord, sings her magnificent song of the Lord’s great reversal of the human social landscape—the mighty tossed down, the low lifted up… the rich go unfed and the poor feast (cf. Lk. 1:46-55).  Continuing in this tradition, the Apostle Paul comes to preach reversal, especially to the Corinthians.  There, in his first letter to them, Paul speaks of the reversal of religious expectations—that is, no signs or wonders to be given… Paul speaks of the reversal of wisdom and wise expectations—that is, the foolishness of God, the cross of Jesus Christ, is the content of Paul’s preaching.  This theme of reversal runs through the entirety of scripture, and it comes to you as well.  You, the manifestly unrighteous sinner receive the righteousness of Christ.  You, dead in your sins, receive the life of Christ.  Thanks be to God!

Table Talk:  Discuss these reversals and others you recall from scripture.
Pray:  Heavenly Father, grant that I enjoy these reversals of the world’s expectations and remain attentive for the unexpected.  Amen

Isaiah 35:1-10 English Standard Version

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;

    the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;

2 it shall blossom abundantly

    and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

    the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the Lord,

    the majesty of our God.

3 Strengthen the weak hands,

    and make firm the feeble knees.

4 Say to those who have an anxious heart,

    “Be strong; fear not!

Behold, your God

    will come with vengeance,

with the recompense of God.

    He will come and save you.”

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,

    and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.

For waters break forth in the wilderness,

    and streams in the desert;

7 the burning sand shall become a pool,

    and the thirsty ground springs of water;

in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,

    the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

8 And a highway shall be there,

    and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;

the unclean shall not pass over it.

    It shall belong to those who walk on the way;

    even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.

9 No lion shall be there,

    nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;

they shall not be found there,

    but the redeemed shall walk there.

10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return

    and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

    they shall obtain gladness and joy,

    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.