category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 15

Sunday,  December 13

Isaiah 61:1–4, 8–11; Luke 1:46b–55; John 1:6–8, 19–28

I am not someone who likes surprises. One need only look through my Netflix viewing history to find that, rather than trying something new, I return to the same, well-worn television content again and again. I enjoy the predictability of knowing where a story is going and how it ends. 2020 has been a difficult year for predictability. Amid the coronavirus pandemic and the protests against racial injustice, I have found myself longing for (as one internet meme put it) “precedented times” rather than these unprecedented times in which we live.

As I meditate on the coming of Christ this Advent season, however, I am reminded that the unprecedented is nothing new to God. The passages of Scripture for this Advent devotional all proclaim something completely new. They each inaugurate a newness that will be quite uncomfortable for some and joyous for others. The prophet Isaiah proclaims “the year of the Lord’s favor,” which will be accompanied by “good news” for the oppressed, “liberty” for the captives, and “release” for the prisoners. All of this is great news for the oppressed, the captives, and prisoners! At the same time, it is bad news for those who love law and order, happen to be the oppressors, or the captors.

Similarly, Mary prophesies the same kind of newness as the prophet Isaiah—a newness ushered in by the baby that grows in her womb. She proclaims a new order of things. The proud, powerful, and rich will be scattered, dethroned, and hungry while the lowly and starving will be exalted and fed. This is an unprecedented upheaval of the first century Greco-Roman social order. It also speaks prophetically to a need for the re-arrangement of social hierarchy that is no less necessary in our modern context.

The only one capable of bringing about newness such as this is the very Son of God, the one of whom John the Baptist says, “I am not worthy to untie his sandals.” The global pandemic and the death of George Floyd have made me certain of one thing, that the world will never be the same. This is the perfect time for Christians to contemplate the kind of people we want to be in the changing world. This Advent, as we meditate upon the newness that only the birth of Jesus could bring, may we recommit ourselves to the prophetic vision that Isaiah and Mary outline. May we work to bring about a world that exalts the least of these, the poor, oppressed, lowly, hungry, and imprisoned, to the glory of God.

Anna Sieges Beal
Assistant Professor Religious Studies and Philosophy

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Advent Reflection: Day 16

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Advent Reflection: Day 14

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