Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains might quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome things that we did not look for,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who acts for those who wait for him.
You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.
But now, O LORD, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Be not so terribly angry, O LORD,
and remember not iniquity forever.
Behold, please look, we are all your people.
How often have I cast my gaze too resolutely forward to Christmas during these four weeks of Advent. Too eagerly do I await the Incarnation. Too comfortably do I prepare for the Season of Seasons.
Decorate the tree. Make sure the lights are properly spaced.
Wrap the gifts. Don’t let the grandchildren see.
Greet the bell-ringer. Smile as a fiver falls into the red kettle.
Christmas is coming, but Advent is here. Now. The Great Promise-Fulfilled looms. But the Time of Preparation is today. I long for the comfort of the Silent Night of the shepherds tending their flocks and the Announcing Angels and the star guiding Those of Good Will to the crib for some Peace on Earth.
But before this comes the honest speech that a heart yearning for His forgiveness requires. Comfort has its place, but today’s words from Isaiah are hard-edged: Rend. Fire. Boil. Adversaries. Quake. Angry. Sinned. Unclean. Polluted. Hidden.
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive others. As unworthy as we are, be merciful Oh Source of Mercy. Then shall we come before You, our mouths filled with joyful Hosannas.
Dr. Richard Ray is a professor of kinesiology and provost emeritus at Hope College.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.