Inverting the Scales of Justice This Advent
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[Editors' note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from members of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. The lectionary readings for this post are Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72; Matthew 3:1-12; Romans 15:4-13. Keep reading the Bread Blog for more Advent reflections each day.]
Advent is a time of anticipation, but even before the anticipation, Advent is a sort of predawn time of reflection on hopes and dreams for the coming year. Autumn has now drawn to a close, and we are thankful for the gifts of the recent spring, summer, and harvest time. Many trees are now bare, the air is cold, and the sun stays lower in the sky. This is a perfect time to pause in reflection, and, perhaps, preparation for the new year.
What is God’s vision of a King and Kingdom for us? We find that vision in Isaiah. Isaiah’s vision for a King describes Christ: “The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him … wisdom and understanding … counsel and might … knowledge and fear of the Lord.” Isaiah’s vision of Kingdom describes a peaceful world: “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together.” The Psalms also describe an ideal King and some details of an ideal Kingdom. It is a glorious vision where there is abundance and freedom from the conflicts of the world, and where the King is both righteous and powerful.
This is a radical vision, an inversion of the suffering and unrighteous condition of the world. And it gets better! In Matthew, when Jesus goes to be baptized, John the Baptist at first resists, because it is John who should be baptized by Jesus, and John knows it. So Jesus the King is being sanctified -- not by a powerful military or a political or religious figure of the day -- but by John, a man so low on the totem pole that he eats locusts and honey for food.
In the same passage we also see that this vision is not just for the Jews, but for Gentiles as well. In other words, God’s vision is not just for the genetic descendants of Abraham, but for all of us. We are all chosen, if we have the hearts and minds to see it. What a radical departure from the notion that only certain people are chosen to be in God’s club! In Advent, as the coming year approaches, this is God’s vision for us: a King who inverts the power structures of the world, and a Kingdom of abundance. What an amazing vision of hope for the new year: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Jim Spearman is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Visit their website at www.nyapc.org.
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