Friday, December 1, 2017

Advent 2017 #1: Getting Ready for Jesus

Despite more than twenty Decembers spent reading Isaiah, I'm still surprised by the power and the sharp-as-a-knife cut of the words. Today, I wept as I read the poignant first chapter. I whispered repentant apologies all the way through.

Isaiah had a divine vision, or maybe more than one. What he saw was deep and true. He couldn't hold back. He had to tell everyone what God had shown him.

(The Leanna paraphrase is coming up, but you'll want to read these verses for yourselves.)

"Listen up, world," Isaiah said. "We're breaking God's heart. He's cared for us like sons and we don't even know Him. We don't get Him at all, so we've done exactly what He told us not to do, and it's killing us. Yeah. Literally making us sick, just like He said it would.

"Look at what a mess we've made of our lives. Can't you see what devastation we've caused in our world? Our land? We didn't think we needed God, so we've thrown off His tender watch-care. We're devastated without Him. If He hadn't continued to give us protection we didn't want, we'd already be gone.

"Sure. We're still rich. We're still giving big offerings. We're still going to church like we always did. Our heart's not in it, though, and we know it, but we won't admit it. We're just doing religion because it's what we've always done on the Sabbath. 

This is not what God wants from us. He wants our hearts to change. Why not do what He says? Let's wash our hands and our hearts and turn back to Him now."

There's a lot more, of course, but these words set the theme for Isaiah and the theme of the Advent season. It's not merely a time of waiting. It's a time of preparation. 

More than six hundred years before Jesus' birth, Isaiah began his ministry of calling people back to God and preparing their hearts for the One to come. They needed time to get ready for Jesus, and we do, too. 

As we begin our progress toward Christmas and our celebration of the birth of our Savior, we have time to get ready. Let's use the coming days to examine our hearts and prepare them for our Savior. 

Do we view God as a demanding tyrant or a loving Father? Are our acts of worship merely rote habit or the overflow of a grateful heart? Do we hide a heart full of sin behind the facade of religion or have we allowed God to strip away all the fake until only real faith and love remain?

Is our heart ready for Jesus? If not, we have time. Over the next few weeks, we'll prepare together. Today, let's ask God to help us see our hearts the way He sees them and understand Him the way He most desires. 

"Come now, and let us reason together," says the Lord, "Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be a white as son; thought they are red like crimson, they will be like wool." Isaiah 1:18 nasb
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