Sometimes the scriptures are a little bit out of whack
Things you expect to find in one place or another, you simply don’t find
And sometimes when you trace through the logic of it all,
the logic doesn’t work.
The scriptures we have are unpredictable.
Because the God that, in some way, stands behind them, is beyond our limits.
Advent is a time when things are spun around, times are played with,
logic is stretched.
I have mentioned before that the “book” we call Isaiah
is a collection of writings, or sermons, or prophecies, or messages
that span generations of time.
A time before the people were taken from Jerusalem into exile in Babylon,
a time while they were in exile, longing for return
and a time when they were back in Jerusalem building a new community.
Chapters 1-39 are the bit before the exile.
They are chapters of doom and gloom
They are predictions of what happens when a nation loses its grip on justice
and on, in the language of the day “walking the ways of God”
Chapters 40-55 are chapters of comfort and reconciliation,
bringing peace to those who are grieving the loss
of the life that they had known.
But at some stage when the scrolls of Isaiah were being put together,
for some reason our chapter 35 got, effectively, put in the wrong place.
No one knows why.
Maybe someone sneezed and dropped all the bits of the scroll
and they got put back in the wrong order
Maybe an editor was going through from the beginning
and got to the end of Chapter 34, and thought
“This is so depressing, we have to lighten it up a bit”
Well, whatever reason, chapter 35 got put in here, where it doesn’t belong.
It is not a place in the book where you should have a burst of celebration,
a sense of joy, an attitude of hope.
Wrong place. Wrong time.
There is much that tells us that this is not the time for a burst of hope.
There is much that has been built that is saddening.
We have had, this week, our blue Christmas service
which reminds us that there are many who approach Christmas in grief
We have had hundreds of people come through these doors this week
in need of assistance, because we – the richest city, in the richest nation
at the richest time in history – have thousands of people in poverty.
We have a time when a new Government,
which seems to believe that governing
means undoing as much as possible,
winds back even the most modest reforms
that were put in place to deal with poker machines
There is much that says
that we are not in a time for celebration, for joy, for hope.
Isaiah reminds us that God gets the timing wrong sometimes.
The logic of the book should go
Sense of gloom,
comfort and reassurance,
hope for something new,
But those wacky prophetic scribes got it round the wrong way.
They put the joy before the comfort.
They put the hope before the reassurance.
In his poem Ulysses, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
It is an encouragement for those who are advancing in years not to give up.
He is giving us the encouragement to become,
or be, the person we are meant to be.
Advent tells us that just as it is not too late to seek a newer world
nor is it too early.
We don’t have to wait for the comfort and the reassurance.
But we can allow the bursts of excitement and energy to sneak in –
into the wrong place and the wrong time, and to do it anyway.
Those things that have been built up in our world
that are signs of our constant and many failings – and those signs are legion –
those things are not the end of the story
The wall that they have built in our lives and in our communities
will not stand.
Some of you will remember the joy – the unabashed, shameless joy –
that was demonstrated when the Berlin wall came down.
These things will not last. They cannot last
Children will not stay in detention: they cannot
Poor health will not continue to decimate our indigenous communities:
Christmas will not continue to be a time of high depression: it cannot
Come, my friends. ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Nor my friends, is it too early.
The time is now: The Advent of our God is here