The Lord God, speaking through the mouth of the prophet Isaiah (41:13-20), tells us, “Fear not, I will help you!”
Who of us does not need help? God’s help! There are days that it takes everything just to get up and to function. There are days when we just want to run away; numb ourselves out,; just not be. Life can seem overwhelming. God promises us that He will help us.
Advent is filled with hope and promise. I will help you.
The Advent Promise is stated clearly and succinctly in today’s first reading, Zechariah 2:14-17:
“… I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord!”
We are not alone. We can never truly be alone. Emmanuel – God with us – is coming to dwell with us. This is the ancient promise. It has been fulfilled in Christ Jesus. Blessed are we who believe!
Jesus is the Good Shepherd who faithfully and tenderly looks after His flock. (We are that flock!)
In today’s Gospel, Matthew 18:12-14, Jesus says to His disciples (and to us): “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?” And Jesus says, “If he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.”
We are His precious sheep. He loves all of us. When we wander off, He gets very concerned about us and does all that He can to bring us home. When we come to our senses, He gets excited and rejoices!
Advent is a time to return to the Good Shepherd if we have wandered off.
Advent is a season of great consolation and encouragement.
December is a demanding time of the year. The obsession with shopping and preparations for “the holidays” puts a strain on many. The weather can be precarious if not outright aggressive. On-going scandals in church and society weigh painfully on the minds and hearts of committed Christians. There is the non-ending global dramas of wars; famine; religious and political persecution; natural disasters and man-made tragedies. There are the personal and family secrets that we all live with – and oftentimes they are not all that secret. Put together, it’s a lot to carry.
The temptation can be to ask, “Where is God in all of this?” In today’s first reading, Isaiah 35:1-10, the prophet assure us that God is with us in the midst of it all:
- Be strong, fear not!
- Here is your God; He comes with vindication;
- With Divine Recompense, He comes to save you.
The world of Isaiah was filled with war, terror and the fear of utter destruction. It was not a world all that different from our own. Isaiah speaks of new life and assures the people that God is with them. God is faithful even though the people might not always be. God’s fidelity is an all-embracing theme of the Bible. There is nothing that we can do to drive Him away. His fidelity is forever.
We are well into Advent, a season of waiting and preparation for the coming of Our Savior. As we navigate all of the demands placed on us and accepted by us, may we take a few moments during the pressures of our day to call to mind the Presence of God. No lengthy prayers are required. All we need to do is make short acts of faith in God’s Presence and put ourselves, our needs and our loved ones in God’s Hands. Be brief and to the point. Speak from the heart. Our reading from Isaiah concludes with the words, “They will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.” Be strong: Fear not. God is faithful.
In today’s first reading, Genesis 3:9-15, 20, we find the original “blame game” being played out:
“After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the Lord God called to the man and asked him, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.’ Then He asked, ‘Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!’ The man replied, ‘The woman whom you have put here with me – she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.’ The Lod God then asked the woman, ‘Why did you do such a thing?’ The woman answered, ‘The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”
Adam blames Eve; Eve blames the serpent and so it is down through the centuries … the blame game. People do not want to take responsibility for their actions – at least their bad or problematic actions! God; however, requires accountability for our actions. Even if we seem to be getting away with things in this life, the day will come when we will stand before the judgement throne of God. The Lord God will demand an accounting from us. The Lord God will not let us play the blame game.