When I think about the Advent season this year, I feel a bit overwhelmed. Not only does it mean that there are Christmas presents to buy and wrap, parties to attend, cookies to bake and decorations to put up, but it means that the weather is turning, the light disappearing and the cold creeping in. As the days grow shorter my inclination is to turn inward, to hunker down in the coziness of home and use the chill as an excuse to stay in. And in the midst of this season—this combination of frenzied holiday preparations and cold that makes you want to just hibernate for a bit—we are supposed to spend time contemplating our sin, the darkness of the world, our need for the light of Christ. Sometimes it feels like a lot just to focus on all the trappings that come with Christmas, but we are called to more. We are called to Advent as a time of recognizing that we dwell in darkness until the arrival of the One who set things alight.
Thank goodness for Scripture, which gives word to the realities whose existence we sometimes find it easier to forget. This passage in Isaiah does just that, calling on God to “rend the heavens and come down” because “we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.” Come down, Lord, here where we are so sinful that even our good deeds are filthy. Come down here where we are selfish. Here where we ignore you, here where we’re mired in sin. Come down here where there is “no one who calls upon your name,” where were find it easier to pretend you don’t exist.
But why? Why should God descend into this place where “no one rouses themselves to take hold of Him?” The prophet gives the reason: God is our Father, and He is not done with us yet. As a father patiently molds and disciplines his children, so “We are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (v.8). In 2 Corinthians, we find this image of the potter further illuminated: “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (4:6-7).
Did you catch that? Not only did the Light come through Christ, not only did God rend the division between earth and the heavens once and for all, but his Light—the knowledge of His glory—is now in us. Imperfect clay jars though we are, He is still molding us, still willing to use us to display His glory. We are not stuck in this season of waiting, and we are not a people of permanent darkness. We are a people that have seen the Light and now have its power inside us. So how can you this Advent be a vessel of light? How can you be mindful of the reality of the darkness even as you remember the Light that has conquered it? How can you help your brothers and sisters in Christ remember that Christmas is not about the trappings, but about God addressing our need for His presence by rending the heavens, sending his Son-light to illuminate the dark world?
[Lauren Clausen is currently a stay-at-home mom to her two, next-year-to-be three, young kids, she’s taken up freelance editing and started to dabble in writing, finally putting that English degree to use. Lauren attends and is a member of the Main Line Campus of Liberti Church.]
Scripture // Isaiah 64.1-9
O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
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.
You meet those who gladly do right,
those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
because you hid yourself we transgressed.
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
and do not remember iniquity forever.
Now consider, we are all your people.