The Book of Isaiah is the focal Old Testament text for Advent this year, both with respect to the Sunday Lectionary (Revised Common Lectionary) and the Daily Lectionary (Book of Common Prayer). I will write each Wednesday about the upcoming Sunday lesson. Each reading from the prophet looks to a time when an undesirable thing will be no more.
The first Sunday in Advent (Isaiah 2:1-5) anticipates a time when there will be no more arrogance.
Jerusalem (not only a city, but also a symbol) will fall, Isaiah says. It will fall because of arrogance– because of reliance upon silver and gold, horses and chariots. Isaiah summarizes the downfall in these words: “they worship their handiwork, what their own fingers have made” (2:8, CEB).
Advent begins this year with an undoing–the fall which must come when we trust in the “principalities and powers” and tout our self-made greatness. Advent undermines personal, collective, national, and international egotism. Advent subverts our civic and ecclesial systems whenever and however the thirst for power and partisanship attend them. The babe of Bethlehem overturns any and all Herods.
Sadly, it took the fall of Jerusalem and an extended exile to dethrone Israel’s embedded pride. Egotism is always the last thing to go. The prayer of the Pharisee, “I thank you I am not like other people” (Luke 18:11) is the apex of pride. Our “sacred cows” (the fattest/most-bloated one being the false self) must be slaughtered in order for God to be seen and served. The road to hope passes through the desert of the judgment of arrogance. “What goes up must come down.”
Advent lands hard in the land. In Advent, knees bow. Mangers replace thrones. Where God is, there is no more arrogance.