“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb;
even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.
“Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,
remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
calling a bird of prey from the east,
the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
I have purposed, and I will do it.
Listen to me, you stubborn of heart,you who are far from righteousness: I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off, and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion; for Israel my glory.” ~Isaiah 46:3-4, 8-13
My favorite Christmas book is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. My Mom read it out loud to us faithfully every Christmas from the time I can remember, and she’s probably still reading it to the ones at home this year. In it six troublesome siblings find their way into a church pageant and attempt to portray the primary characters in the nativity story. Confused already at their first rehearsal one of them cries out in frustration “what’s happening? Begin at the beginning!” And though the rest of the church-going kids groan as the director turns her Bible back to Genesis, these unchurched kids are amazed at the story that unfolds through the Old Testament leading up to Jesus’ birth.
As we arrive at Christmas all of us church kids sometimes groan as preachers and authors want to take us back to the beginning. We know it all, we’ve heard it. Creation, fall, flood…we know the story.
Advent is the beginning of the church calendar. There isn’t specific time set apart in our liturgical year to walk through the scenes of the Old Testament, to ponder the revelation of God that shows up in in Eden or Egypt, Canaan or Babylon. As much as we may want to isolate the nativity and meditate only on the Nativity scenes, we lose much history, much depth, much meaning by skipping right to Matthew 1.
The people of the Old Testament had hope too. It is a hope we cannot even fathom. We know when Christ came. We know how He came. We know how to walk with Him. We have the immense privilege of living at an intimate level with Him. And even still, sometimes our hope wavers. Imagine the lives of those who lived before He came. Imagine the profundity of their hope. They had no proof, no dead sea scrolls, no historical record. Jesus was not yet revealed. And yet they hoped. They hoped in the Word of God. That He spoke truth and that He would bring about what He promised.
Come thou long expected Jesus, hope of all the earth. They did not even know His name. They only knew that God had promised to save them.
I stumbled on this video last night while looking for music to make a soundtrack for this Advent season. The song is playing on repeat, becoming my heart’s cry. And the artwork that accompanies this song is a masterpiece that speaks “remember” to all will see.