Sunday, December 28, 2008

First Sunday after Christmas

Isaiah 62:6-7,10-12
v.12 They shall be called, "The Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD;" and you shall be called, "Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken."

Isaiah 62 is full of "new names" for Zion/Jerusalem. Earlier in the chapter (v. 4) they were "Hephzibah (My Delight is in Her) and "Beulah" (Married). The chapter ends with more, quoted above. These latter do not easily tranliterate into acutal Hebrew names like the two earlier in the chapter (too bad! they are sort f fun--and my own grandmother's name was "Buelah").

The new names are all about the newness that God is bringing to his people upon their return from two generations in exile in Babylon. It is astounding good news because it is given in the midst of desolation. The people have returned to find Jersalem in ruins and the land a waste. Isaiah, however, brings the news "rebuild!" Jerusalem will once again be renowned throughout the world. There will come a day when it will be obvious that Jerusalem was not forsaken.

All of this is because of Yahweh, who is acting decisively for his people, building them up so that they can build up the city. All their worst fears did not come true. They are not to be known as a people abandoned. They shall be/are again a Holy People, that is, a people who belong to God.

Sometimes the days after Christmas can seem a bit of an exile. There can be a feeling of, "Was that all there is?" The glut of Christmas Day, fun as it was, has quickly fallen away. Now all the trappings (the tree, the lights, etc.) all seem to taunt us: "I'm going to have to come down sometime!" But perhaps this is when the real work of Chrismas can begin. Where does God want to be born anew for me/us? What new name am I to be given by virtue of this birth? One can be sure it has something to do with these new names Yahweh has given to Israel. Are you ready to be nicknamed "Hephzibah, or "Beulah" or "One not forsaken, " or "Redeemed of the Lord?" Can you embrace this new name and let God do the work in you that God wants to do? That is what it is all about, not doing the work ourselves, but allowing God to do the work in us. That will insure whatever is done is not "the same old thing" but something, indeed, new.

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