A Pastoral Word
"The darkness of the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle"
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness— on them light has shined."
This Advent Season, the prophet Isaiah and the beloved church father, St. Francis of Assisi will be our guides for our journey to Bethlehem. Why these two people? Well, each one, in their own unique way, trusted in God's promises given to God's people in the past, while living hopefully in their present time, and faithfully awaited a future time when God would come and restore God's people once more. Exactly what we do as people of faith each and every Advent!
So here is a little bit of background on our two guides so that we get to know their stories and feel more comfortable with them as they journey with us, inviting us to open our eyes to the light of God that is shining in our midst.
The prophet Isaiah lived in uncertain times. King Uzziah had just died which meant an end to an era of relative peace and good times in Judah. Once the king died, it left the door open for the nation of Judah to join the conversation with other world powers on just exactly how to prevent a takeover by the Assyrians , who were conquering and plundering all the countries along their way as they became THE world power at the time. And it wasn't just outside forces that had the nation of Judah living in fear. Internally, leadership among the nation of Judah was lacking in all aspects of community life. The new king was not faithful to God. The temple only cared about rules and regulations. And the people were scared. The people were in a great darkness. So for Isaiah, his job as a prophet of the Lord was to remind the people that God had given them a promise for a Messiah that would come from the line of David, and that God had not abandoned God's people. Isaiah was lifted up as a prophet to proclaim to the people of God that the "Lord will act to save, to redeem, and to transform" (The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary), the same themes that we are reminded of on our Advent journeys.
As for our other guide, St. Francis of Assisi, he started out life as the son of an Italian merchant, living very comfortably and enjoying all the "perks." The story goes that St. Francis received a vision from God to build up the church and from that moment on, Francis embraced a life of radical discipleship. "Christ's birth greatly influenced Francis' understanding of what it meant to be a follower of Christ. For Francis, to live the life of a disciple of Christ meant that one had to embrace the poverty and humility of Christ as made manifest in Christ's own birth." (Advent devotional).
St. Francis is also credited for creating the first know nativity scene. "He desired to enter into the sights, smells, and sounds of the scene so that he could gain a more accurate sense of the real significance of the birth of Christ. In this "new Bethlehem," Francis could grapple with how the infinite God, in an unfathomable act of love, had taken on our human condition as a vulnerable baby born amidst animals and laid in a manger" (Advent devotional), the very same thing we grapple with as we make our way to Bethlehem each Advent season.
Two guides, from very different time periods, both people of faith. Each one of our guides during the Advent Season will remind us that there is a Light for Our Darkness!
So we invite everyone to join us on Sunday, November 27th, as we begin our journey to Bethlehem with Isaiah and St. Francis of Assisi as our guides.