Sunday, December 21, 2008

4th Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 42:1-12
v. 1 Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit on him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

We've been reading in the early chapters of Isaiah, but for this Sunday reading we have zoomed ahead--30 chapters and some two hundred years, to a "Second Isaiah" preaching to exiles in Babylon. Chapter 40 begins this section of the book with the startling words, "Comfort, O comfort my people..." This announcement is good news (gospel), an announcement which is reiterated in chapter 41. Now in chapter 42 is introduced "my servant."

Just who this servant is has been a puzzle to Bible readers and commentators throughout history. Christians have taken the words as prophetic, and there is some evidence that Jesus may have understood himself as this servant, or at least the Gospel writers did.

In its context, "my servant" probably refers to the people of Israel as a whole. So, having just been roused out of their lethargy and despair in exile with words of gospel comfort, they are immediately given a job. They are to be God's servant, and, as such, they are to bring forth justice, and this justice is to be not for Israel alone, but for "the nations." It's alot to ask of folks who have most likely just gotten used to the reality that their God just wasn't around anymore, that they were stuck in service to the Empire and its gods.

As a text preparing us for Christmas, we are reminded that the baby Jesus was born for this same good news. He was himself to be comfort, and he will also be called to be a justice-maker among his people and indeed for the whole world. And he will collect a community of justice-makers, servants, to be his followers. As we celebrate this new life once again, we are also called once again to live it with him, to live in God's delight, with God's spirit upon us, being justice-makers in the world.

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