“Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.” – Isaiah 1:16-17
When asked to write an Advent reflection, I protested that I didn’t buy into the details of the story nearly as much as the point of it. “Great, you’ll fit right in with St. Stephen’s,” was the response. And I was out of excuses.
The assigned Old Testament scripture from Isaiah for this day begins: “Hear the word of the Lord, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, You people of Gomorrah.” Geez! For many of us, this is fingernails-on-the-blackboard stuff. But I decided to let the details go and focus on the portion towards the end: “Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.” Whatever the specifics meant to the story’s original recipients, the point of the story—a call to righteousness—is meaningful to us today. I can chose to not be upset by the other stuff.
When I read Aesop’s fables to my son, I don’t expect him to believe in talking scorpions and frogs. I assume he is mature enough to get the point of the story (and it’s not don’t give a ride to a scorpion). But many of us approach the Advent and Christmas season with a death grip on a view of a disappointed child. Can we let some or all of that go?
Whatever the details are to you, the point of Advent and Christmas is a promise of hope to a darkened world. Don’t let the details that trouble you obscure that promise of glad tidings of great joy.
Kin Spain has been a member of St. Stephen's since 1995, husband of John and father of Jeff, and occasional behind-the-scenes instigator.