For sixteen years now, during the second and third weeks of Advent (the word has to do with “coming”), a centuries-old traditional time of “preparing our hearts” before Christmas, I’ve led some brief morning devotions with readings and prayers for a little group gathering briefly to bow in our little church sanctuary.
It’s not a large thing and certainly not a large crowd, but that’s one of Advent’s main lessons: little and quiet can accompany the most magnificent meaning, and meek and lowly are very often God’s exact descriptions of the truly mighty and strong.
On this year of plague and pestilence (so to speak), it was time to punt. It didn’t seem like a good time to go on with many “extra” in-person activities, but it also seemed to me like a time when our hearts and souls probably need some moments for quiet reflection even more than usual.
So, what to do? Facebook Live. My personal page. Mornings, 10:00, for about ten minutes. Pros and cons, but at least, it’s happening. And it just did.
Quiet now, I’m sitting in front of the fellowship hall fireplace drinking the post-devotional coffee that goes well with a post-devotional cookie. I’ve got a jillion things to do, but finding the discipline myself to sit still for just a moment needs to be for now #1. It’s time to simply “be” for a moment so that when the time to “do” rushes in a few heartbeats from now, the doing might possibly mean something.
The fire crackles.
The clock ticks.
My eyelids want to close, and I want to let them.
But the words of this morning’s Old Testament reading are quietly echoing in my ears. They’re from Isaiah 42:1-4, the first of the four “Servant Song” passages Bible scholars point to in the Book of Isaiah where the prophet focuses our attention on God’s “suffering servant” who will come to save God’s people. Christians have almost always identified the “Servant” in those “songs” with Jesus Christ.
This particular passage is quoted by Matthew in his Gospel as he points to “God’s chosen Servant,” Jesus the Messiah.
Of the much that is amazing in these verses, what most amazes me is the gentleness of this “Servant.” The King of the universe has chosen him, loved him, in-filled him with the power of the Spirit, and yet . . . Yet he is described as being so very gentle that in his coming to bring salvation and justice, he won’t shout or even raise his voice. Were a sparrow to land on a half-broken “reed” in the marshland, it would break, but the Servant will not break it in his coming. The merest whisper of a breath, a single flap of a gnat’s wing, would blow out the flickering candle. But the Servant’s coming will not.
He is God’s chosen One. No one is his equal. But he comes with no fanfare. No parades or processions. No loud speeches. No pronouncements of power or lawless riots or tweets or desperate or vindictive or pitiful whining from the far left or the far right or sad Sadducees or equally sad Pharisees whose souls are joyless and whose faces are too paralyzed by pride and bitterness to move into the shapes necessary for real unselfish smiles and even healthy-hearted laughter. None of the poisonous fear and violence and strife spreading like a virus from those whose trust is in their power and whose souls are atrophied and twisted.
God’s Servant is the most powerful Ruler of all, and yet he comes most gently of all.
He comes . . . oh, imagine this! He comes, eyes closed, quietly drawing baby breaths, asleep in a manger. Gentle, completely. But strong, unimaginably.
The world sleeps also. Lowing oxen barely take notice, but angels look on and bow, utterly astounded.
God’s Servant has come.
And Curtis’ Christmas album, One Christmas Night, is available at the website and also on Amazon, iTunes, Apple Music, etc.
Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.