A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
DEVOTIONAL REFLECTION: Isaiah, Mary, and the Advent Faith of Things Unseen
It took a lot of faith for Isaiah to say what he said.
Caught in the middle of a high stakes geo-political crisis, Isaiah instructs King Ahaz of Judah to trust that the Lord is more powerful than the political facts on the ground. If he did, said Isaiah, God would fell the forest of their enemies and cause to grow in its place a new forest of righteousness in the line of David himself. It wasn’t what King Ahaz wanted to hear.
It took a lot of faith for Mary to say what she said too.
Mary’s Magnificat is no timid prayer. Like Isaiah’s prophecy to Ahaz, it is a prophetic song of fierce faith and stubborn hope in the face of overwhelming odds. Yet rather than from the mouth of a court prophet, it comes from a nobody girl from the backwater town of Nazareth in a forgotten corner of Palestine.
And it is filled with the promises that have reverberated down through Israel’s history for centuries.
Promises to right wrongs. Promises to untangle intractable systems of abuse and oppression. Promises to bring down rulers and lift up the humble, to honor the poor and to humble the rich. Promises of redemption, of reconciliation, of resurrection.
They feel like important promises to remember right now. After all, we all read the headlines about the state of God’s creation. The world remains in desperate need of redemption, reconciliation, and resurrection.
And so we wait this Advent season with the weight of creation’s scars in our hearts and the songs of Mary and Isaiah in our mouths. We wait with faith that there is something coming worth waiting for. We wait in the truth that Christmas makes plain: that God always makes good on his promises, and that it looks nothing like we would expect.
God of redemption, your promises are sure, even and especially when all the evidence points to the contrary. May we have the faith of Isaiah, who saw promise where others only saw hopelessness. May we have the same faith as Mary, who saw possibility where others only saw insignificance. May the incarnation remind us that, in Christ, you have made good on your promises, and that your purposes for your world continue to ripple out from Bethlehem into all the earth.