No matter the subject, going against what has become “normal” for society invariably produces anxiety and pushback. We are studying the beginning of Jesus' public ministry which confronts not just social change, but produces a bitter rejection by the very people who should be elated that God's promise has arrived.
In Mark's version of the Jesus story, you won’t find the genealogy of Jesus, the exile to Egypt or the Temple visit when the boy Jesus impressed the scholars of the Law. The opening words of this shortest of the four gospels confront the flawed ideas of both the Jews and Romans of that day: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” heralded by the startling voice and appearance of John the baptizer (v. 1).
In the iconic movie “The Wizard of Oz,” the message of finding your place in life is dramatically staged when Dorothy and her friends enter the throne room of “The Great Oz.” Toto, Dorothy's beloved dog, dispels the magical powers of the wizard by pulling aside the curtain hiding a mere man controlling the sham sounds and larger-than-life appearance of the wizard.
The sole Gentile gospel writer, Luke, records that on the night of Jesus' birth an angel appeared with a message to shepherds in the sheep pastures outside Bethlehem. The pioneer missionary Paul presents this dramatic message of hope for all the world, using an image familiar to both the Jewish and Gentile world. On this fourth Sunday of Advent we focus on the grace of God offered to all people through which we become God's children.
Isaiah's message in today's study is a dramatic contrast to Jeremiah's writings we studied last week. Isaiah's “book” can be divided in half: the first 39 chapters are called “first Isaiah” and the last 27 chapters are called “second Isaiah.” This week's passage marks a profound difference with a word of comfort and hope. Has God changed his mind about these selfish people?
Jerusalem was facing ruin, God's Temple was about to be destroyed, the land could hardly be described as “promised,” and the majority of the Jews were facing exile in a foreign county ruled by a pagan dictator. There comes a time when you have nothing but faith in God, and you pray.
Life is a journey of choices. You cannot control what life places before you every day, but you can decide if you will trust God, live morally and make a difference for others. The book called “Ruth” is a story of human choices and God's grace.