Is 4:2-6; Ps 122:1-9; Mt 8:5-11
Once you’ve been in the house of the LORD there’s no place else you’d rather be. In the words of Psalm 122 we hear the echo of everyone who has set foot within the gates of the holy city. Inspired men of every time and place have rejoiced and said to all who would listen, “We will go up to the house of the LORD.” No matter how demanding the mission the saints were filled with constant joy. Such is the joy of those who live in the house of the LORD and have within them the dwelling of the Most High. These saints have fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah in providing many new peoples with a glimpse of the LORD’s glory as a shelter and protection. The Lord Jesus himself prophesied that many from east and west would be welcomed at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven. This is the spirit of the Advent season: a spirit of rejoicing and reaching out to all who have yet to rejoice in the House of the LORD.
No one can journey through Advent and come home at Christmas without dreaming the dreams and seeing the visions of Isaiah the Prophet. To those who have survived the deportation into exile the voice of the LORD is heard—you will be luster, glory, honor, and splendor. This news is to good to be true! How can it be that those not talented or powerful enough to be deported would have such significance? Indeed, this remnant in Zion and these leftovers in Jerusalem will be called holy. This will be the LORD’s act of redemption when he washes away the filth and purges the blood with the blast of his searing judgment. As he promised the remnant of the great Exile, so the LORD speaks to our hearts through the prophecy of Isaiah. We are to journey this Advent guided by the smoking cloud by day and the flaming fire by night. We will not get lost. We will find our true home, our shelter and protection in the LORD’s glory. This promise is ours as Advent 2010 begins: “shade from the parching heat of day, refuge and cover from storm and rain.” With this kind of assurance we can dare to make this Advent Journey. Only with the LORD’s word planted deeply within our dreams and visions will we see the way home for Christmas.
As the Lord Jesus was amazed with the faith of a Roman centurion, so too is the heart of every Christian Missionary amazed at the faith of the converts. All, who have left the comforts of home to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God, find their greatest joy in the surprise of faith in the hearts of those to whom they minister. Indeed, it is the work of the word of God who is not limited by language or culture to be close to those who are paralyzed, suffering dreadfully. Human suffering rips open the heart to make a place for the coming of the LORD. In obedience to the hidden and silent whisperings of the Holy Spirit those who suffer compassion and those who suffer pain summon the very Savior for whom they long. When we are empty and hopeless, when we no longer have confidence in our own power, when all seems dark and deadly, it is then that we cry out, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” Even more than nature abhors a vacuum the Lord rushes in to fill our emptiness and heal our pain. In this Advent may the words of the faith-filled centurion become our own prayer, and may we find our greatest joy in sharing the wonder of this Kingdom banquet with someone new this Christmas.