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     Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah 40:9-11

     Gracious Father, Advent is upon us—the beloved season of remembering and celebrating the incarnation of Jesus—the promised Messiah… your beloved Son… our gracious Savior. O, may it be much more than Advent-as-usual this year. Surprise us, Father. Bring great glory to yourself.

    Let us engage with the story of Jesus’ birth as though it was for the very first time. Rescue us from the sentimental and the predictable. Bring familiar stories alive in heart-gripping, life-changing ways. Reshape how we do Christmas this year by the power of the gospel… because everything changed the day Jesus was born. We don’t have to be afraid any longer. We really do have something worth shouting about!

     Already this morning I’ve been smitten with Isaiah’s picture of your “Advent arms.”  The promise of the Messiah carries with it the promise of the embrace we all need… but scarcely believe.

     In Jesus, you come near to us as the Sovereign Lord, with your sleeves rolled us as the great ruler. Your arm rules over all history… all nations…  all kings… all circumstances Nothing and no one can alter, subvert or change the kingdom story you’re telling through Jesus. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.

     In Jesus, you come near to us as the most Compassionate Shepherd, gathering and carrying your lambs in your arms. This image and hope are staggering. To be tended as a dumb sheep… to be held close to your heart… to be gently led… what more could we possibly desire?

      Father, these aren’t mere metaphors. Metaphors can’t save us, only inspire us. You really are this kind of God… and you really are this kind. We believe, help our unbelief.

     Indeed, the coming of Jesus puts all nations on notice… there is only one true king. And the coming of Jesus puts all your people face down in adoring love… Jesus is a most wonderful merciful Savior—Immanuel, God who is with us and the God for us. So very Amen, we pray with Advent wonder, in Jesus’ matchless name.

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