Scripture Readings for December 6, 2017
Today’s readings are about God’s loving care for us. The Gospel from Matthew summarizes it best, “They all ate and were satisfied.” Isaiah has God not only feeding people rich food and choice wine but God destroys death and so wipes the tears from everyone’s face. These are the images of the messianic banquet where all our needs are met. It’s the time we wait for in Advent.
I am struck by the sheer, over the top, abundance described in these readings. Isaiah doesn’t just say that God will provide rich food and choice wine he has to repeat in more lavish terms that this is, “juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.” He reveals God’s empathy for the fear all people have of death and makes the removal of that fear a touching moment in which God wipes the “tears from all faces.” I think this is definitely the God “for whom we looked.” It is a God who protects us, takes away our fears and gives us more than we had expected.
Today’s Psalm reinforces this idea. It is the famously quoted Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd,” which describes God’s soothing presence, one who is a guardian in time of fear, a provider of rich and extravagant blessings so that “only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life.” Who could ask for more than that? This is the gratitude of one who lives “in the house of the Lord.”
Finally, we have Matthew’s story of Jesus on a mountain near the Sea of Galilee. This too is a story of gift and abundance. Jesus cures the sick and in so doing amazes the crowd. It is a description reminiscent of the healings that Isaiah uses to describe the time of God’s reign. Yet Jesus not only cures the lame and the blind but he sympathizes with their simple but essential need for a meal. Not only does he eliminate many of the severe and future killing major calamities of their lives with physical healings but then turns around and serves them a meal. Who acts like this? The message in these readings is clear, God does.
I think we have to take these readings seriously. If Advent is to mean anything then we have to consider that these readings tell us something about how God operates towards human beings. I want to set the challenge of evil in the world aside for the moment and just absorb the gift of these readings. Here is a message of love so clear, so strong, so plainly sincere that we need to be sure we don’t dismiss it. That we don’t write it off as irrelevant to our daily lives or a nice description of what heaven must be like. This might have been an idyllic messiah story for Isaiah or the Psalmist but when Jesus lived in this world the whole thing changed. A real human being, who was later killed, brought God’s generous, caring gifts into ordinary people lives and the world has not been the same since. Stuff changed. History was effected by Jesus, his disciples and all the myriad believers, heretics, thinkers and peasants who lived and struggled to live up to what they thought Jesus was all about. We need to embrace the love and active generosity of God. It is affecting to accept that God is trying to give us a life of happiness and joy. That is what Advent asks us to do, look ahead, see what is possible, and be willing to welcome the gifts.