Advent 2: Cry Out!

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.   (Isaiah 40:6)

Yesterday, the Old Testament reading was Isaiah 40:1-11.  My friend Christopher Edmonston (@pastoronpoint) got me thinking about this passage in an entirely new way this Advent season.  He began his online Advent reflections by asking a question:  what would happen if no one told the Advent and Christmas stories anymore?  What if we all decided that those stories are too old and worn out?   What would happen then?

His question led me to another:  what would happen if no one cried out, in the way that Isaiah is inspired to do?

What would we have lost if no one in the world had ever spoken up, dissented, protested, or revolted?

I used to think it would be easy to cry out about whatever I deemed wrong with the world.  If you don’t like something, start an argument or a protest about it, I reasoned.  What I didn’t realize was that I knew nothing about actual resistance; I was simply a determined argumentative kid.  (Just ask my mom and dad.)

As an adult, I have discovered that standing up for what you believe in is tough and complicated.  You think you’re signing a simple petition, but that one stroke of the pen commits you to arduous behind-the-scenes work.  You take a stand on something, and you lose some friends over it.  Or, you may be mad in general, but unable to articulate the changes you want to see in the world.

And so sometimes you just cry out.  Isaiah felt the call to cry, and yelled out, “What?  I’ll do it, but what will I say?  It’s almost no use.”

Years ago, as I prepared for ordination as a pastor, I thought and prayed about this passage.  At the time, being a seminary student or a pastor was a ridiculous thing to do, at least in my circle.  My senior year in college, some people even asked me why I would waste my time in seminary.  Yet I felt that God was doing something in my life and in the world that required me to talk about it.  So I used this passage at my ordination service.

Now, things are still not crystal clear, but I have felt encouraged and determined by the conversations about spirituality and personal ethics that have been swirling around in recent years.  I get the sense that we still don’t completely understand what we’re talking about, but all our words and cries are headed in the right direction.

As we prepare to receive Christ anew, may we cry out to the world about how much we need Him … even if we have trouble finding the words.

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