In the four weeks of Advent the Prophet Isaiah, John the Baptist and Mary of Nazareth are messengers from God. Isaiah is one of the first voices we hear. His voice is constant in our readings for Advent.
Isaiah was a priest in the temple of Jerusalem in the eighth century– the worst of times, when the powerful armies of Assyria were ravaging the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. God came to Isaiah in a vision in the temple’s Holy of Holies (Isaiah 6) and he’s overwhelmed by a Presence more powerful than all the mighty armies and their clever leaders. God is “Emmanuel,” “God with us.” no matter how bad the times.
That was Isaiah’s message then, and it’s his message for us today. He always seems unreal, as he must have seemed to those who saw Assyrian armies wasting their land. All nations streaming toward the mountain of the Lord’s house, laying down arms of war? All peoples, nations and races living in harmony and peace?
Today, the prophet’s promise still seems an impossible dream in our splintered world. But Advent is about such a hope. It’s not just a personal hope for ourselves and those dear to us, but hope for the whole world. The peaceable kingdom, a seemingly impossible achievement , is not impossible achievement for God.
God is with us. Emmanuel.
Prophets like Isaiah tell us not to be satisfied with anything less than the Kingdom of God. We become satisfied with what we see and hear, our immediate goals and achievements, our daily projects. The prophets remind us these are stepping stones to something more. It’s all preliminary to what’s hidden in God’s plan.
Like the bread and wine we bring to the altar, there’s more than we see. There’s something more.