29 November 2020 – Isaiah 64;1-9
‘O that you would tear open the heavens and come down …’ That is our Advent cry for help, our longing for the coming of the Son of God. But will our prayer be answered this Advent? Was it answered last Advent? Was it answered when the lament was first delivered in the days of the prophet?
Moses witnessed the dramatic phenomena of earthquake, wind and fire. Others too but those were the days of that old time religion when God was God, sinners knew their place and there was a miracle round every corner! Does it happen anymore?
There are two problems with the prayer. To whom would God respond? And if he responded to you, would your cause be justified? What sort of God would make immediate response to your prayer? Is that the kind of God who would tear open the heavens and come down and sort everyone out? Is that the kind of religion we actually espouse?
Some do – but I’m not so sure. And neither was the poet who wrote this powerful lament. For in the fourth verse, he acknowledges that this prayer has not been answered for a long time – if it ever was! ‘From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.’
Oh dear! That’s not good news. Waiting! Who wants to wait? It’s not life affirming! But this is what Advent is all about. ‘Keep alert!’ says one. ‘Keep watch!’ says another. Wait for Christ to come. This waiting is not a passive activity. It’s all about being alert and keeping watch! Jesus says it’s all about doing the work which has been allocated to us.
Amazingly enough, this waiting brings with it the fulfilment of God’s promise. For in this addition to the lament, we discover that far from waiting for God to tear open the heavens, God comes down and ‘works for those who wait for him’.
There’s much less drama but that’s what God does. God meets those who do two particular things. Firstly, remember him as we do in every act of worship. And gladly do right. There’s much discernment in what it means to do right but loving God and loving our neighbour as yourself is a good beginning.
This prayer is more readily answered than the dramatic crie de coeur, ‘O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!’ But it’s a more authentic religion. It’s all about God’s collaboration with us, working with us, meeting us when we remember him and gladly do right this Advent and for aye!