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James T. KeaneDecember 10, 2020
Photo by Red Zeppelin (Unsplash)

Like most things in 2020, this will be an Advent unlike any other. But each day, you can still take a few minutes to reflect on the coming of our savior at Christmas with short reflections on Scripture, written by the staff of America Media.

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A reading from the Book of Isaiah

I am the LORD, your God,
who grasp your right hand;
It is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I will help you.”

Fear not, O worm Jacob,
O maggot Israel;
I will help you, says the LORD;
your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

I will make of you a threshing sledge,
sharp, new, and double-edged,
To thresh the mountains and crush them,
to make the hills like chaff.

When you winnow them, the wind shall carry them off
and the storm shall scatter them.
But you shall rejoice in the LORD,
and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain,
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I, the LORD, will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

I will open up rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the broad valleys;
I will turn the desert into a marshland,
and the dry ground into springs of water.

I will plant in the desert the cedar,
acacia, myrtle, and olive;
I will set in the wasteland the cypress,
together with the plane tree and the pine,

That all may see and know,
observe and understand,
That the hand of the LORD has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Reflection

Today’s first reading from Isaiah might seem at first glance to be a little harsh. “Fear not, O worm Jacob,” the Lord says, “O maggot Israel.” Uh, thanks for the compliments? But the rest of the reading shows the purpose of those harsh words. They are followed by images of strength. The Redeemer will make the people stronger than mountains, able “to make the hills like chaff.”

Further, in a parched land, the Lord will bring abundance. “I will open up rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the broad valleys. I will turn the desert into a marshland, and the dry ground into springs of water.”

Born and raised in Los Angeles, I have always loved these biblical images where the love of God for his people is expressed in terms of watering the desert. Like much of ancient Israel, Southern California is naturally desert. Its orange groves, its vast cities and towns, its teeming population of migrants, are all possible because of the abundance of water brought from elsewhere.

As we journey further into this Advent season, let us remember those who have protected us and provided us with abundance.

Of course, humans are proud to claim responsibility for the physical abundance nature can provide. But the biblical Israel finds abundance not from long canals but from the loving care of the Lord.

If we go back to the beginning of this reading, we find that even among those shocking first images is another: God as the parent who protects and provides. “I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand.” “It is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.” As we journey further into this Advent season, let us remember those who have protected us and provided us with abundance. And continue to look forward with great anticipation for the coming of the One from whom all abundance flows.

Pray

  • What are the deserts in your life? What can you do to water them, so that their full potential is achieved?
  • How can you give thanks to those in your life and your community who have protected you and given you opportunities?

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