For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!
Here we are, entering Advent. In a little more than four weeks we will stand at the stable as thousands in this parish have done since 1922, and billions of Christians do each year. If we could just imagine ourselves there for a moment, what would we say to ourselves â€“ the person standing here today? What advice could we give ourselves?
Isaiah pegged it right when he told us to pay attention to the word of the Lord. This isnâ€™t just a hearing, or a mere paying attention to, or a listening. Our paying attention must be converted to the integration of Godâ€™s word into ourselves. We are to make every act, word, gesture, project, task, and study a living encounter with Godâ€™s love â€“ within ourselves and for each other.
As with most prophetic utterances Isaiah gives us both a consequence and a promise.
The promise is that our living encounters with Godâ€™s love results in this: They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. Those very real encounters within us and in our relationships come from walking in the light of the Lord!
The consequence is judgment. God looks at us and will judge whether our lives have been an encounter with His love. No one likes the thought of that because we all fall short. As such we must measure how our life in Jesus reaches reality and hold ourselves to a much higher standard. We cannot just ignore the consequence and hope for the best. We cannot walk in darkness and expect the promise to happen in spite of us.
Letâ€™s get back to our advice to ourselves â€“ I would say to myself â€“ be careful each day to walk in the light of the Lord. Donâ€™t make those mistakes. Let His word and His way be integrated in me; make it real in my every encounter. If the Lordâ€™s promise fills me, and all I encounter, I will see His promise come to reality. People will be lifted up. Joy will be made real.
In todayâ€™s Epistle and Gospel we hear the challenge â€“ our salvation is nearer now; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Our advise to ourselves â€“ we cannot afford to set the light of the Lord aside or expect that the consequence is not near. So let us take up His instruction, live His promise and make every encounter a reflection of His light.