Reverberating Words (Advent 2)
We’ve all been in a crowded room… maybe at a social event like a wedding reception… or event center... maybe even here at church, in Davis Hall... where people are chatting, they’re catching up, maybe because they haven’t seen one another in a while.
When the program begins, the person in charge… most often the speaker… could do various things in order to get everyone’s attention. Sometimes the speaker will “tap the mic” or say something along the lines of “can I have your attention, please?” Or, like we do in Davis Hall... we’ll ring a bell... which works pretty well!
I’ve been at gatherings when the speaker would take a butter-knife, and tap a glass... or maybe even turn off the lights for a quick second! All efforts to get everyone’s attention.
However, most of the time (in my experience), it’s those closest to the speaker… those closest to the bell, or the tapping glass… that get quiet first. And then those in the back of the room, a little further away from the speaker, tend to gradually catch on that the program is beginning. Usually, those who heard the speaker trying to get everyone’s attention, begin to relay the message, to those further back. Sometimes you can hear audible shushing… but eventually everyone catches on to the fact that the speaker is about to begin, and they quiet down.
That’s kind of how I imagine it is with the words of the prophets. I’m sure there were times when the prophets of old may have felt they were speaking in vain… and that no one was paying any attention! But they eventually managed to catch enough attention, that you and I continue to hear their words reverberating today.
Words like, “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
Or Isaiah’s words from 40:1, “Comfort, comfort my people, says the Lord.“
What was it about such simple words that captured the people’s attention? Was it the prophet’s charisma, was it their determination… the “fire” in their eyes? Or... did their Words from God ring so true, did they resonate so genuinely… that listening, felt like solid ground.
Of course... just like today, the prophets’ voices were not the only voices that people were listening to. While the prophets did all they could to encourage people to return to God (to take care for the less fortunate, to be restored in relationships with one another), there were surely then, as now... competing voices for the peoples’ attention. Voices of power, greed, despair… Voices of complacency… Voices of hatred and division… that were louder than the prophets’ voices. And yet there were people who heard. People who listened.
In fact, the words of Isaiah were so powerful, that centuries later, John the Baptist heard… and echoed those same words. “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill made low, and the crooked shall we made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
Of course, John not only heard… but he responded to Isaiah‘s call. He lived these words... while calling those who heard him, those who listened to his message, to repent and began again… To prepare the way, to prepare their hearts, and lives, for the coming of the Messiah.
Of course, in so doing, he has invited more and more people to listen, and to live these words for themselves. But again, John’s voice was not the only one people heard. The gospels remind us of some of the other voices that were crying out for attention… Emperors, governors, kings, priests, scribes, Pharisees.
And yet, still… in the midst of all the noise, and all the different competing voices of the day… People were drawn to John the Baptist. This simple man, who ate locust and wild honey… who heard the word of the Lord in the wilderness, before making his way around the Jordan… proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
This same John the Baptist, who responded to the world around him, by saying, “whoever has two coats share with anyone who has none, and whoever has food must do likewise.” John the Baptist... was determined to point out that the valleys are filled, in the mountains and hills made low… as those have been blessed, share with those who haven’t. Such words still “ring true” today! They’re undeniable; (shushing, or) quieting the words of this world, while pointing us to the truth.
Of course, John was not the source of the words. Nor was Isaiah… or Micah… or Jeremiah… or any other prophet. But through their faithfulness to share what the Lord had given them… To declare the truth of God‘s word… They continued to attract the attention of those who had ears to hear. And those who heard - (both then, and now) have continue to share.
The Voice of good news may not necessarily be the loudest, but it’s steady. It’s persistent. It’s the voice of God who continually invites us all to return… To care for the, “least of these.” And stand in love, and forgiveness, and mercy… in our relationships with one another.
The fact is, any true prophets’ words point beyond themselves… and always lead us to God. They show us the way when things seem upside down. They draw our attention when we’ve been distracted by all the other clamoring voices in this life. The prophets tell us the truth… While reminding us that there’s always a better way. Their words call us to get back on track with our relationship with God in one another… And to be about the work that God has called us to do. Helping, feeding, serving… The world that he came to save.