DAY OF THE LORD . . . Terrifying in its coming

See, the day of the LORD is coming–a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger–to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. I will make man scarcer than pure gold, more rare than the gold of Ophir.” (Reference: Isaiah 13:9-12 )

What can I say beloved? That the writer of Isaiah is correct, and when the Lord comes all these things will happen? It will the apocalypse as if it was stage for a movie only the sound effects and special effects will be real as will the blood etc?! Is this how you envision the day of the Lord?

I do not hold to one of the end times over another. There will be tears, and there will be rejoicing. Which one does depends on whether are one of the haughty and ruthless. And if it would calm your fears beloved, I will tell you that this is actually an oracle concerning, and proclamation against Babylon. Yes, that generic, mystical and all-encompassing enemy Babylon. So, you have nothing to worry about . . . unless you are the haughty and ruthless enemy Babylon.

I will pose the question that I “danced around” yesterday – have you lived your life so that no one would call you their enemy – that you are not someone’s “Babylon”? Because if you are, then you should be worried about the “Day of the Lord.” And the cruelness you have committed against others will be brought back to you! But you are not such a person, are you beloved. When the Lord comes you will be part of those rejoicing that the Lord has come to the world and you will be spared what happens to those of “Babylon.”

The historic Anabaptists warned each other not to sin or be sinners, and I am assuming to not be like “Babylon. “Hence hear further the terrible, relentless and awful punishment of God upon sin and sinners, which has ever taken place and will yet take place. Take heed, my dear children, I counsel you, as much as you value your souls, to this special, eternal punishment of sin and sinners” writes Hendrick Alewijns to his children. It is simple and simplistic to say “be good” so as to avoid the wrath and fierce anger of God. But what more can we do?

While today’s scripture passage does not hold out much chance for mercy, we can still hope that on the Day of the Lord there will be mercy for us. And may that hope sustain you beloved. Selah!

The Second Week of Advent: Our Comfort Comes

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isaiah 40:1-2)

Advent can be a wonderful time, it you can cope with the anticipation and waiting. True, it is a time of preparation, and can be a trial. And studies report that more people become depressed over the Christmas season than at other times of the year. But one of the wonderful things about Advent is that we know that help and relief is coming. Christ is coming! Not a Christ who is coming with laws and regulations. But a Christ who knows what it means to struggle, to hurt, to be alone and lonely. A Christ that knows what it means to be human. And in the fullness of time, a Christ who will put himself in our place to redeem us from what we have foolishly done.

A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the
Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ “ (Isaiah 40: 3-5)

It can be hard to know when to start decorating for Christmas. People who follow the Advent lectionary tend to not get our the Christmas decorations right after Thanksgiving. While we are anticipating the arrival of Christmas and Christ, there is still time that must pass before that joyful day. Christmas decorating tends to change the way a household looks, especially if like me you like to make your home look festive.

The first thing I get out is my Nativity scenes – I have several of them. It reminds me of what I am anticipating; and when the commercial aspects of Christmas become more and more apparent, it keeps me centered. It also reminds me as I decorate my home and my office (I have a specific Nativity scene I use there) that I need to prepare my heart and soul.

A voice says, ‘Cry out!’ And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’
All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever. (Isaiah 40: 6-8)”

One of the Nativity set I use came from my mother soon after I was married and before our children arrived. It is the Nativity set of history and family tradition. The Nativity set I use at work is while porcelain with no color; it forms the background of my work ethic based on Christ’s example. I got that set as a Christmas present from a work colleague in a gift exchange. The one I use personally in my room is glass figurines of different colors. It represents diversity, and in flickering light, holiness and sacredness. I find it at a thrift store – I will never understand how someone would want to get rid of it, but I am glad it was “passed on” to me.

The traditions of Christmas are passed down from generation to generation; but those traditions come to an end. The way humanity celebrates Christmas has changed and evolved. That we celebrate stays the same, but the decorations and traditions change. I think it will always be like this. Someday I will no longer be on this earth to celebrate Christmas, and the Christmas things I treasure now may no longer be valued or used. And that is okay. Christmas will go on.

Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’
See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” (Isaiah 40: 9 -11)

By the second week of Advent many people are will into Christmas planning and preparations. Presents are being bought and travel plans being made. We used to travel to our respective families for Christmas, but since moving to the west coast it is just our immediate family. That has meant some changes, and in order to cope with the changes, the traditions we have are even more important, and comforting.

The writer of Isaiah intends to comfort his/her reader/listener. I would hope that he/she thinks of them as “beloved”, as I think of you. Assurances of the Lord’s strength and compassion are emphasized in the last three verses of the lectionary passage. It is not the power and strength that the Christ Child has, but the power and strength of the God who sent the Christ Child to a waiting people. The Lord gathers us into the Divine’s arms and takes us to where our needs will be meet.

May you, beloved reader, continue your journey of preparation toward Advent comforted by our Lord. Selah!