Day Twenty-Eight of An Advent Calendar (Morning): The Invitation

Saturday,December 24, 2016 (Morning)     Saturday after the Fourth Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 35.1–10
Revelation 22.12–17, 21
Luke 1.67–80
The text of the readings follows after the comments.

invitation-to-managers

I’ll be doing two posts today, as the readings in the Daily Office Lectionary have one set for the morning and another for the evening. Liturgically, they are different days – a day begins, following Jewish liturgical tradition, at sunset the night before, and lasts until sunset of the next. Christmas begins this evening on the sunset of December 24, so Christmas Eve is the true beginning of Christmas. As Advent Calendars traditionally have a flap or box for Christmas Day itself, I’ll do one on the feast itself – and then I’ll be done!

—- + —-

The passage that grabs my attention today is the one from Revelation. We’re in the very last chapter of the Bible, and we read:
The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
It’s an invitation to salvation, a bidding to the New Jerusalem, a calling to change.

It’s somewhat in tension with the line a couple of verses before: “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practises falsehood.” I don’t think John here is making a clear statement about who gets in and who doesn’t – at the very least, I am guilty of lying a few time sin my life, and I know many good people who have repented of the rest of the things on this list, and I hope that they will all be called to the new life. The litany of sinners is really just a stereotyping of the kind of people who reject the Hebrew God, worship idols, and are thereby led to a multitude of sins. The people who would be excluded are those who, in spite of the invitation, are irredeemably attached to their old ways and cannot change. The invitation is a generous one – the city of the New Jerusalem is so massive it has room for every person who has ever lived – so we need to read these passages of condemnation in tension with the spendthrift love of God.

The passage from Isaiah imagines what the redemption will look like. The route from exile (whether in Babylon or Assyria) to Jerusalem is roundabout, following the fertile crescent up the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, past what is now northern Iraq and Kurdistan, skirting the modern day border of Turkey and Syria, and then south through the mountains of Lebanon to Galilee, then Samaria, then Judea. The prophet imagines a more direct route through the desert in what is now the Kingdom of Jordan, and there are flowing streams and flowering plants. Miraculous healing take place: the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. In words that would influence Chapter 21 of Revelation John writes:
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

So the question becomes, How do we respond to this invitation? And if we think we have responded with a yes, how then do we live this generosity in our own lives?

Isaiah 35.1–10
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus 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.

Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
‘Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
He will come and save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
but it shall be for God’s people;
no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray.
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.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Revelation 22.12–17, 21
‘See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practises falsehood.

‘It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.’
The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.

Luke 1.67–80
Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favourably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
   that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

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About Bruce Bryant-Scott

Baptised 1962. Anglican priest. Fly-paper brain. Husband & Father. Refugees welcome! I remember when Facebook was on paper.
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