A meditation on Advent of the gospel

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.
Isaiah 52:7-10 (NRSV)

How beautiful is the messenger who brings the gospel. Who is the messenger in our Christian nativity story? John the son of Elizabeth, who comes before to announce the Christ. The angel Gabriel, who brings the message to Mary, blessed among women. Mary herself, the literal bearer of good news. The starlight dancing on the mountains, leading shepherds and magi to the birthplace.

In our Christmas carols, we ourselves are the bearers of the news: “Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere! Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!” Later on in the Christian story, the apostle Paul will write of the gospel in ways that make me think that Christ, Immanuel, is both the message and the messenger. The news the messenger brings is not just notice of peace, but peace itself. The message has transformative, blessing power.

We know of moments like this in our own lives. Moments when knowledge touches not only our minds but our hearts and very bodies. They are moments of sickening tragedy, when we learn of the death of dozens of innocents in a senseless school shooting. They are moments of tender care, when our sister or brother comes out of the closet and the life of our family is never the same. They are moments of empowered solidarity, when a marginalized group stands up and proclaims justice and peace. They are moments of soaring joy, when the news of a baby’s birth, long awaited, changes the world, and hope enters in.

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Embodiment for Lent: Isaiah speaks today

Filling up the place with some more embodiment: My assignment for the seminary’s Lent devotional series was Isaiah 58:3-9. My Old Testament professor made my heart go pitter-patter when she said she liked what I did. I shall recreate it here:

“Why do we give up chocolate, but you do not see?
Why do we Occupy, but you do not notice?”
Look, you serve your own interest when you fast,
and loudly shout that you are the 99 percent.
I know you do it just to pick fights and make noise
and to let out some aggression.
This kind of self-righteousness
is lost in the din of the world.
Do I ask for indignation and self-pity?
Do I ask for blog posts and Tweets?
Is this really honoring me: Facebook memes?
Driving a hybrid? Shopping at Whole Foods?
Tagboard signs? Election bumper stickers?
Does God enjoy these outward symbols?

Doesn’t God seek this in our hearts:
to seek the just treatment of those enslaved by poverty, incarceration,
homophobia, xenophobia, violence, addiction, sexism, and hunger?
And not only that, but to end these scourges?
Isn’t this the right way, to give your best organic seven-grain loaf to the hungry,
and to bring the homeless poor into your home so they may sleep on your 1,200
thread-count sheets;
to give your REI-bought Marmot rainjacket to the cold, instead of crossing the
street when you meet a homeless brother or sister?
Only then will you truly see God
and be healed in your soul.
Your fears shall leave you, and you shall walk confidently in God’s presence.
You shall call, and God will answer in the voice of the poor;
you shall seek, and God will say, “Here I am.”