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Footsteps to Follow: Reflections on Isaiah 64 for this advent season

As St. Paul often wrote at the outset and/or conclusion of his writings and sermons: “Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

One of the most cherished freedoms we have in our country is that of mobility: the opportunity to travel, move about, visit with family and friends.

The beauty and luxury of being able to drop in, looking after each other, renewing acquaintances and affirming relationships is the ultimate joy of being able to visit and be visited.

Regrettably, since March our ability to visit has been greatly discouraged and curtailed.

Since the springtime, and as we set our sights on the future, millions around the world have been separated and will continue to be so, kept from visiting with others due to COVID-19.

It appears little will change, at least for the first half of 2021. The separation we have endured has wreaked havoc not only economically but socially also.

This leads us to the Hebrew Scriptures and the prophet Isaiah who, along with the people of Israel, suffered through long droughts of social separation as circumstances at the national level isolated them from each other, prohibiting visitations and get-togethers.

In Isaiah 64: 1-4 (NLT) we read: “Oh, that you [God] would burst from the heavens and come down [to visit with us]. The Mountains would quake [upon your visit and arrival]. When you came down [and visited with us] long ago [at the creation of the world], you did awesome things.

For since the world began no ear has heard, no eyes have seen a God like you who does awesome things for those who [patiently] wait [in hope] for him. You [visit with], welcome those who seek to do good. (NOTE: Words in brackets added for emphasis.)

Miracle of miracles. Let it be said, the Lord is planning another visit soon, next week, so we are told and so we believe and look forward to.

His visit and arrival will take us to a small village in the Middle East (Bethlehem) and a cattle stall with a manger bed made ready. As we read Isaiah a little further in chapter 64, which asks us in our preparations for God’s Divine visit: who are we if we say we are persons of faith?

And again, where are we in our faith journey, considering all that surrounds us. Isaiah tries to help us with these questions by reaching out to us, answering and affirming the first question.

The prophet writes: “We are your people” (vs. 9). The second question is left up to us to ponder, reflect, and offer a faith perspective: where are we in the spiritual realm of believing?

In the physical world, visitation opportunities today are at a premium.

Not so in the spiritual life, which The Lord empowers us to reflect on. Science seeks not to prove eternal truths.

Rather faith receives truth and seeks understanding in the words of Holy Scripture and, written elsewhere in Isaiah, “Immanuel, God with us” (who visits us on God’s birthday and every occasion).

We may not be able to visit with each other as frequently as we wish today. But, for all times, The Lord Jesus, the Christ, seeks to visit with us all the time.

The question is where are we, focusing on this ray of Divine Love offered to all humanity, which is filled with hope and seeks to guide and lead us.

The Rev. Dr. Ronald Shellhamer, clergy with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and also serving in the Presbyterian Church/USA

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