You who bring good news to 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 he rules with a mighty arm. 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. Isa. 40:9-11 (NIV)
Dear heavenly Father, on this first Sunday of Advent, we praise and bless you for a season in which we get to celebrate your great faithfulness and your immeasurable generosity. You have sent Jesus to us, and you have given Jesus for us. Promises you make are always promises you keep, and we are so very grateful.
Enflame our hearts, Father. Help us to engage with the story of Jesus’ birth with childlike wonder and renewed hope. Bring familiar Scriptures alive in fresh and transforming ways. Reshape how we do Christmas this year by the truth and grace of the gospel.
Already this morning, I’ve been so encouraged 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 barely believe. In Jesus, you come near to us as the Sovereign Lord, with your sleeves rolled up as the great ruler. Your arm rules over all history and heartaches, over all kings and crises. Nothing and no one can alter, subvert, or change the story you are telling in Jesus, and the kingdom you are advancing through Jesus.
In Jesus, you come near to us as a Compassionate Shepherd—gathering and carrying your lambs in your arms. This image and hope are settling and liberating. To be tended as a helpless lamb, to be held close to your heart, to be gently led—what more could we possibly desire?
These aren’t mere metaphors, Father; for metaphors cannot save us, only inspire us. You really are this involved in our lives and your really are this grace-full. The coming of Jesus puts all nations on notice: There is only one true King, and he is Jesus. And the coming of Jesus puts us—your people, face down in adoring love. Over the next several weeks, show us, yet again, how Jesus is a most wonderful, merciful Savior—Immanuel, the God who is very much with us and so very for us. So very Amen we pray, with Advent longings, in Jesus’ matchless and merciful name.