5 December 2019

Isaiah 4:2-6

On that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. (v. 2)

Psalm: Psalm 147


During this first week of Advent, we have been reflecting upon the theme of Justice and Sacrifice. We began by a recognition of the call to be ready, preparing the way for the one who brings light into dark places and challenges us to play our part in allowing that light to shine. We have been challenged to consider how our experience of God’s loving grace, which we celebrate in worship, requires us to proclaim the demands of justice. Without the possibility of justice, sometimes established through sacrificial love, there can be no expression of hope. A society without hope is a society which turn against itself.

When Christopher Columbus was sailing to the new world, his hired sailors were threatening mutiny. The voyage was long and hard and there was no land in sight for weeks. One day, Columbus saw an encouraging sign. Floating on the ocean swells was a small tree branch. The branches' leaves were green, indicating that land could not be far away. The green branch gave the sailors enthusiasm and a renewed hope. Soon after its discovery land was sighted from the sailor in the crow's nest.

When all seems hopeless God has a way of surprising us and being present, even in the loneliest places. It is not God who is absent but we who have ceased to believe in a God who loves us more than we love ourselves

The words of Isaiah, the Psalmist and the hymn writer, which are given us for consideration today, help us to recognise that God will, in the end, be God. The Psalmist rehearses the works of God and sings God’s praise. It is God who has gathered the outcast, healed the broken-hearted, counted the number of stars on the heavens. It is also God who has cast the wicked to the ground.

As we continue our Advent journey, we acknowledge the need for readiness to welcome the King. We acknowledge that we are not to be passive in our waiting, making ready requires action on our part. If we are looking forward to a trip, then we want to be assured that those to whom we are going are making adequate preparations for our arrival. There will be judgement and those found wanting shall find themselves left outside.

Today's hymn and readings, however, tell us of the glory awaiting those who, having been judged, are found to have been faithful. They will be called holy, they will be shaded from the all that is harmful, they shall be granted peace and justice and joy. This is the stuff of the kingdom that we both announce and await.


To Ponder:

  • In what ways does your faith challenge you to action?
  • Have you been involved in campaigning for any issues of justice?
  • What does the concept of sacrifice mean to you as you live out your faith in daily life?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Adrian Burdon

The Rev Dr Adrian Burdon is Superintendent Minister of the Shaw & Royton Circuit in the Manchester & Stockport District. Adrian has been a presbyter since 1988 and, in addition to urban Lancashire, has worked on the Fylde Coast, in Leeds City Centre, the North East of England and as a mission partner in the South Pacific. Adrian is Chair of the CTBI Writing group, which writes material for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and serves on the liturgical subcommittee of the Methodist Church.

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