3 A voice is crying out:
“Clear the LORD’s way in the desert!
Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!
4 Every valley will be raised up,
and every mountain and hill will be flattened.
Uneven ground will become level,
and rough terrain a valley plain.
5 The LORD’s glory will appear,
and all humanity will see it together;
the LORD’s mouth has commanded it.”
1 Arise! Shine! Your light has come;
the LORD’s glory has shone upon you.
2 Though darkness covers the earth
and gloom the nations,
the LORD will shine upon you;
God’s glory will appear over you.
3 Nations will come to your light
and kings to your dawning radiance.
In the defining moment of the song and movie about Rudolph, Santa Claus said, “From what I see now, that will cut through the murkiest storm they can dish up. What I’m trying to say is, Rudolph, with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” * Last Sunday we lit the candle of hope. Hope was what Rudolph gave Santa on a severely stormy Christmas Eve. As we move into the Advent season, we rejoice that hope was Jesus’ gift to every person on planet Earth, in a way that went far beyond one big night but on to all eternity. Through him the LORD’s glory (not as humans imagine glory, but in the revelation of God’s enduring, serving love) did appear. God’s gift of hope to Israelites returning from exile wasn’t just a show to watch passively. When the light shone on God’s people, it called them to “Arise! Shine!” That call still comes to us as God’s people this Advent. Luke 3:4-6 used Isaiah 40 to describe John the Baptist’s powerful preaching that prepared the way for Jesus. Scholar N. T. Wright wrote, “John was…preparing a pathway for the Lord himself to return to his people. This was the time. Rescue was at hand.” ** With a sense of urgency John passionately called people to change their hearts and lives, accept God’s forgiveness of sins and show that change through baptism (verse 3). How much of a sense of urgency do you feel in pursuing God’s path for your life? What helps you keep your commitment to God’s call strong and focused? In Isaiah 60, the prophet did not call the Israelites to be glorious on their own. Instead, he wrote, “the LORD will shine upon you; God’s glory will appear over you.” God’s light and love is to shine through us to reach out to nations and kings. In what ways can you more fully take in God’s glory and love so that you, in turn, can let it shine out to those around you?
Lord Jesus, when the world seems the scariest and ugliest, shine your light in and through me. In place of gloom, give me a spirit that shines, not only at Christmas but all year round. Amen.
* “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer Quotes.” Quotes.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 21 Nov. 2022. https://www.quotes.net/movies/rudolph,_the_red-nosed_reindeer_quotes_9778.
** N. T. Wright, Luke for Everyone (New Testament for Everyone) (p. 33). SPCK. Kindle Edition.
All week long we’ve been speeding down the track of the Advent season. Here we are already at the end of the first week, a quarter of the way finished with the season. Our hearts are beginning to thump with hope.
Before we wrap up week one of Advent, though, I’ve decided to re-watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I’ve been watching this movie for thirty years. Do you know what I noticed for the first time ever? Like Rudolph and Hermie the elf, Yukon Cornelius’ sled dogs are misfits! There’s a St. Bernard, a Toy Poodle, a dachshund (weiner dog), and a couple other show dogs I can’t identify. Do you know what these dogs are not? They are not traditional sled dogs! Misfits are everywhere in this movie.
I think that’s also what the first week of Advent-–HOPE-–is teaching us. It’s teaching us to engage the misfits. They’re everywhere. Their involvement in our preparations for Christmas matters. If misfits are everywhere, that means we are all encountering them all the time in our daily lives. We can’t ignore them. Some of us might even admit that we are them.
Do you know what else? It turns out that any athletic, energetic dog over thirty pounds can learn to mush-–pull a sled. That’s inspiring! It makes me believe God can use any of us to help people experience the hope of Christmas.
Do you know what is even more inspiring? At one point during the movie, Yukon Cornelius’ dogs are no longer able to pull his sleigh fast enough to escape the clutches of the Abominable Snowman. So Yukon Cornelius tosses the dogs onto the sled, grabs a rope, and pulls them quickly to safety. I think God is sort of like Yukon Cornelius in this scene. When we tire of the Christmas spirit, God doesn’t demand we go faster. Nope. God puts us on the sleigh, grabs the rope, and starts pulling us toward hope.
I hope old things are unveiled in new ways for you as we continue to watch Christmas classics together this Advent season. May you feel God pulling you toward the blessing of a misfit Christmas teeming with hope for all of us.