Written by Brian Johnson
There’s a line from last Sunday’s Old Testament reading that always gets me. It’s from the passage from Isaiah that we read during worship. In that passage, the prophet cries out to God in pain. Isaiah, and the people of Israel, were having a rough go of it. Their nation had been conquered. The leaders of the people – political leaders, economic leaders, religious leaders – had been taken away into captivity in a far-off land. Their temple had been destroyed. God had told them that God loved them, and God had promised always to be with them. And, yet, here they were, their lives upended, their homes destroyed, carried off as prisoners – as slaves, even. It was bad. They were lost. They didn’t know what to do, or where to turn.
And, so, in the midst of this season of despair, Isaiah cries out to God “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” In other words, Isaiah says to God “why have you abandoned us? Why are you letting us suffer? Will you please come down here, fix this mess, heal us, make it all better!?”
“O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” In 2020, I think we totally get where Isaiah was coming from. Many of us know how it feels to feel like everything has gone wrong, to be unsure of whether God is still with us, to have questions and doubts about whether there is any hope in the midst of all this mess.
O, that you would tear open the heavens and come down! Those words, it turns out, are a pretty good summary of what church is all about during the season of Advent. This season is a time when we get ourselves ready for God to enter into our world. After all, Christmas – the season after Advent – is all about celebrating that God HAS ALREADY torn open the heavens and come down into our world. In Jesus, in this child born of Mary, in this baby born into poverty, born on the outskirts of empire, born to an oppressed people, born on the edge, born without anywhere to lay his head – in Jesus, we discover the One who is God with us. God has become weak in order to save us. Jesus is the answer – the unexpected answer – to our desperate pleas for God to step down into our world and put things right.
During Advent, we remember that God has already stepped into our world, has already won the final victory – and, so, we pray for God to do it again. During Advent we pray for Jesus Christ to enter into our world yet again. We pray for him to enter into our hearts this season. We pray for him to shine the light of his love in our families, in our relationships, in our community, in our world. We pray for him to set all things right, to overthrow injustice, to turn our world upside down – as he has promised to do.
During Advent, and perhaps especially at the end of a hard year like this one, we pray, like Isaiah did, for God to tear open the heavens and come down. There is so much that is so broken in our world, and we, like Isaiah, are desperate for God to fix it. But we have what Isaiah didn’t have – we know the rest of the story, we know the Good News that God has torn open the heavens, we know that God has invaded our world of sin and established a beachhead of righteousness, we know that Jesus Christ has been born and that nothing can ever be the same. God has torn open the heavens and entered our world in the least likely form – as a vulnerable human baby. Because Jesus Christ has been born, our prayers have been answered. God has not abandoned us. No matter how bad this year feels, we are not alone. God is with us. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. Hope has been born.
In Jesus, God has torn open the heavens and come down to save us. Thanks be to God.
If you’ve missed any of our previous daily readings, you can find them all archived here. We hope these readings are helping you encounter God this season!