In These Times December 11, 2016 Sunday's Readings 3 Advent, December 11 Isa. 35:1-10 • Ps. 146:4-9 or Cant. 15 or Cant. 3 • James 5:7-10 • Matt. 11:2-11 The wilderness and the dry land, the desert, the burning sand, the thirsty ground, the haunt of jackals, the home of dragons: depravity covers the earth like the waters cover the sea (Isa. 35:1, 7). The land seems at times lifeless, at times alive to the work of violence. “Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born” (Rev. 12:4b). And when the child was rescued from the poison that poured like a river from the dragon’s mouth, the beast turned its wrath “on the rest of her children” (Rev. 12:17). The Church must, in these times, awake to the depth and danger of a demonic power sapping life from created beauty, and giving permission to the worst of human nature. “That ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world,” is raging and dividing humanity and plotting the ruin of nature (Rev. 12:9). In this lifeless and violent place, however, “they shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God” (Isa. 35:2b). Gladness, rejoicing, the blooming crocus, joy and singing: life will burst from Life’s being. God shows mercy “chiefly in showing mercy and pity” (BCP, pp. 182, 234). God will strengthen weak hands, make firm feeble knees, open the eyes of the blind, unstop the ears of the deaf, make the lame leap like deer (Isa. 35:3-6). “Water shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert” (Isa. 35:6). What God does he also commands, calling an elect people to be agents of divine mercy and pity in the harsh trials of daily life and political struggle. God is a tricky word, often no more than a projection, an imposing and spoiled ego thrown against the sky. A mere “my god” makes me a danger to myself and to others. The God of revelation, however, is not another “I”; the God of the Bible says what I often do not want to hear. God speaks in ways that are poetically arresting and politically disturbing. God executes justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, opens the eyes of the blind, lifts up those who are bowed down, watches over the stranger, upholds the orphan and the widow (Ps. 146:7-9). This must be said again and again, in the pulpit and on the street; rehearsed in prayer and deployed in action. God extends healing and compassion; God in Christ reaches with outstretched arms on the hard wood of the cross, at the cost of his own life, which he gives for the life of the world. Pondering in exaltation, Mary, the mother of Jesus, describes past events, or God’s customary way of acting in the present (“gnomic” aorist); treats the future as already present; or, holding all this together, she recites her own Vincentian Canon, showing what God does always, everywhere, and by all the baptized and all persons of good will. “[God] has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:51-53). God’s work is our work. “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news preached to them” (Matt. 11:5). The truth is, the doctor is in, and the doctor treats with skill and love every human being. Look It Up: Read Luke 1:48: lowliness, humility, a humble state. Think About It: Sit down at the lowest place.