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Second Sunday in Advent: December 4, 2005.

Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

2 Peter 3:8-15a

Mark 1:1-8

First Reading

The approach of the prophet who composed the poems and oracles found in Isaiah 40-55 is similar to some contemporary therapies for people who are, in particular, second generations in exile--whose memories of what once was are even more vague than the first generation's. Through various genres of poetry, the "Second Isaiah" counseled the exiles to reframe their pessimism about Israel, YHWH, and their future. The exiles' psychological distress provided impetus for the poetry of one of early Judaism's most creative thinkers: the prophet known often as the Second Isaiah (Isaiah 40-55). Throughout the various genres of poetry, deliverance with more than adequate forgiveness (e.g., 40:1-2) by a universally powerful deity is promised to servant Israel who has an exalted destiny in the divine nation. Similar attempts at reframing are visible in the poetry of the Second Isaiah. Indeed, one could claim that one of the primary impulses of the prophet's ministry is to offer the captives a new sense of self and a new vision of Israel's God. (See William S. Morrow, "Comfort for Jerusalem: The Second Isaiah as Counselor to Refugees," Biblical Theology Bulletin [2003]: 229-32.)

Some argue that the witness of John the Baptist is the beginning of the Good News. The complete Good News will not be revealed until more time has passed. Most important, though, we are at a beginning that declares that we are not captive to many things, including precedent. John the Baptist announced this.

Pastoral Reflection

Preaching on the text from Isaiah, Heidi Neumark raises the central tension in this text: "When will this be?" When will Isaiah's words come true? ("Advent," Christian Century 118 [2001]: 6-8). Neumark describes her husband's work at the Dean and Deluca in Soho, a high-end retailer of gourmet and specialty food, in which he sells caviar and foie gras. At the same time, the food pantry in her congregation has run out of staples such as canned tuna and powdered milk.

In my context, I observe an injustice: there are a disproportionate number of people from certain demographic groups serving in Iraq right now. Neumark continues, "the lions and the lambs are not too close yet either." I read the newspaper, and the letters to the editor point toward the distance, the anger, and the hurt between those that live in the United States.

Neumark continues, "During Advent I am always in sync. Advent unfailingly embraces and comprehends my reality. And what is that? I think of the Spanish word anhelo, or longing. Advent is when the church can no longer contain its unbearable, unfulfilled desire and the cry of anhelo bursts forth: Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus! O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!"

We long for that which we once knew. "Somehow I too believe we all passed through the heart of God on our way to where we are ... the only way to come close to [the heart of God] is to live as closely as possible to God now--to try to be at one with the heartbeat of life, to love and to be true, just, kind, and good--to try and nudge the mountains and valleys into an embrace that heals the breach."

Isaiah describes the heart of God, the mountains and valleys nudged into an embrace that heals the breach between God's hopes and desires and the world. Again, as we contemplate the witness of John the Baptist as the incomplete Good News, we can connect it to this idea of the heart of God. John the Baptist offers a step toward wholeness. Isaiah offers one more. CGM
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Preaching Helps
Author:Mack, Carey Gardiner
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Previous Article:First Sunday in Advent Series B: November 27, 2005.
Next Article:Third Sunday in Advent: December 11, 2005.

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