Among the things I love about Advent is that we get to read each day at Mass from the Book of Isaiah, one of the major prophets of the Old Testament.
The Book of Isaiah opens with what is called the Book of Judgment – a scathing indictment of the people of Israel. It is a long and bitter attack on the arrogance and hypocrisy of Jerusalem’s leaders. In the second verse, God says, “Sons have I raised and reared, but they have disowned me!” And immediately thereafter, God laments: “Ah! sinful nation, people laden with wickedness, evil race, corrupt children! They have forsaken the Lord.” And God tells his people, “Your incense is loathsome to me….I close my eyes to you.”
But as harsh as the indictments are, God cannot sustain them consistently. Even in the first chapter of Isaiah, which contains all of the lines I just shared, God also invites: “Come now, let us set things right…Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow.”
And how will God set things right? By sending His Son to live among us, the Son who “shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.” We learn in today’s reading from Isaiah that the child will sprout like a shoot “from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” Isaiah promises this coming and promises that the rule of Immanuel will be splendid. We hear today that
the wolf shall be the guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea.
What a vision! O come, Emmanuel!