Read Isaiah 64:1-4

His life was a mess. He’d had all the warning signs, the cold shoulders at home, the one- or two-word responses to questions, the lack of eye contact, the kids’ refusal talk with him. They were all there. At work, there were the looks, the conversations stopping when he came up. Then, his life got worse. His wife took the kids and left, and he lost his job. Without his family and his job, his identity was gone. He had no idea what to do, where to go, or who he really was. His reversal couldn’t be more disastrous.

While this story is fictitious, the story and history of the Israelites wasn’t. It was real, and it was worse, if that’s even possible. They were the chosen people of God, his people. They went from being slaves to bring the victorious people who conquered Canaan — all with the power of God standing with them. Then, they lost it all. They took their eyes off God, with all the power he carried and the life-giving support he offered, and instead looked at their neighbors’ lives and practices. They seemed to say to themselves, “Wow, their grass is greener – I want what they have!” And so they stepped out of God’s light and into the darkness of an unfulfilling life dictated by others. Their source of identity fell from God to themselves and their own practices. The reversal of their formerly abundant life couldn’t have been more despondent.

But there remained this one promise: the promise of the Messiah. This promise spoke of a Redeemer, one who would heal their pain and give them freedom. This Messiah would deliver them from the heavy hands of their oppressors and from all the suffering theirs oppressors had caused. This promise was not fictitious. It was real. They had this shining beacon of a promise to hold to, look forward to, and identify with. God would once again lift them from slavery and bring them to freedom and peace. The love of God would once again press on them like the warmth of the sun. This promised reversal couldn’t be realized soon enough!

The arrival of Jesus, the promised Messiah from so many years ago, had proven true. This Messiah offered all the things the promises spoke of, but delivered them quite differently from what people had expected. The promise didn’t come in the form of political freedom from the Romans: the Messiah offered freedom from sin and death. Deliverance didn’t come merely for the kingdom of Israel, but the Kingdom of God became available to all peoples. All were invited. The love of their holy and righteous Father was present once again, available to all who would choose it. The bright promised light had no limits. This reversal of hope, available to all rather than a few, couldn’t have been more appealing.

Reflection and Response

During this season of Advent, reflect on the freedom, abundant life, and secure identity that Christ offers. Meditate on 1 John 3:1-3, and stare into the face of the One who loves you more than you love yourself. Consider your own life, cast it all at the feet of Jesus in surrender, and grasp firmly his promises now. 

By Rich Obrecht

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