Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Advent Devotional Introduction

                         Introducing PEC's 2020 Advent Devotional 

Isaiah 55:10-11

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Advent comes at a time when night’s darkness grows deeper and longer as the Earth leans farther away from the sun’s light. However, there is a point near the end of December when all of this starts to change, when darkness begins to recede and light comes again. Astronomically, we understand this to be the Winter Solstice, the longest night in the Northern Hemisphere after which the Earth begins to tilt back towards the sun and the days begin to grow longer.

But we aren’t a people that celebrate the solstice or the subtle teetering of the planet. No, we recognize the approach of a different light, a different kind of cosmological revolution. At the darkest time of the year, Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, the birth of the Word made flesh (John 1:14), and we all know what comes after that. We are then doubly assured that this time of darkness is not permanent. Just as the Earth begins its slow lean forward towards the sun, so too does the birth of Jesus assure us that the grip of death is not permanent, that there will be a time when the sun’s warmth will burst through and usher in a new day where we won’t have to stumble forward in uncertainty and fear. “Arise, shine; for your light has come... For darkness shall cover the earth...but the Lord will arise upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1-2)

But life doesn’t work so simply. After all, this is not the first Advent-Christmas or Winter Solstice we have lived through. And as much as people might hope 2021 will be better, there is no guarantee that the problems we are facing now will magically disappear once the calendars flip over. Just because the light is here does not mean our problems vanish. No, the light just helps us see what needs to be done so that justice, mercy, and love can flow like flooded rivers (Micah 6:8). After all, Jesus Christ did not change the arc of history by simply being born. The power of Jesus lay in what he did, in his actions, in his ministry amongst the people.

And so, I turn to this year’s Advent scripture: Isaiah 55:10-11. Just as the rain does not return to the heavens until it has also watered the earth, neither can we simply hear God’s word and ignore what it tells us to do. 2020 was not just a year of natural disaster, pandemic and hardship; it was a year when so many voices cried out, pleading to the heavens and to anyone else who could hear, that enough is enough. We have heard so many cries. We ourselves have cried.

Just as Jesus, the Word incarnate, came and did that which God the Creator sent him to do, so too must we hear the words that so many have cried out over the past several months and do what they ask. As instruments of God’s justice and mercy in this world, how can we sit idly hearing these cries for help from our siblings and not rise up to meet them? Will we let the word of God and God’s people rain down and water the fields in our heart or will we let our land remain dry and fallow? For only when God’s word accomplishes and succeeds for that which God purposes will the mountains and hills burst into song and will we be able to go out in joy (Isaiah 55:12).

The writings in this devotional are just a small sample of the different voices that are crying out at this time. As you make your way through and finish the devotional, I invite you to not only let the words sink into your hearts, but to try and find the voices and stories not represented in this collection and listen to what they have to say.

To the glory of God, Amen.

Jonathan Lee is a second year Masters of Divinity student at Yale Divinity School. Born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina, Jonathan’s faith and love for God’s Creation were simultaneously cultivated during a time in the Maine woods. In addition to considering a career in ordained ministry, Jonathan is interested in environmental and Asian American theologies. He is currently serving as Presbyterians for Earth Care’s Programming and Learning Fellow.

Waterfall photo by David Kepley

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