I wonder if I have every really paid attention to Advent in the past. Its texts all surprise me, baffle me. How is Isaiah a passage about waiting for the Lord’s great coming?
Isaiah 64:1, 4-9
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence— From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed.
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity forever. Now consider, we are all your people.
Sometimes waiting looks more like pacing and pleading than sitting and sighing. Isaiah stands in the supremely uncomfortable place of painful waiting, between the people set against God and God waiting for them to repent. Isaiah’s heart hurts for both.
I am surprised how rarely our celebrations of Advent include repentance. We relish the themes of expectation and anticipation and celebration; I don’t know that I’ve ever considered Advent to be an occasion for contrition or confession. Isaiah, however, sees it as just that. In the prophetic imagination, the coming Day of the Lord is both great and terrible. Waiting, both ours and God’s, means an opportunity for us to turn, to repent.“God of all hope, in Jesus your salvation broke into our world, and his return gives purpose to our living in this broken world…Make me ready for that future day by living hopefully today. In the name of our soon arriving Savior, amen.”