In the days of Ahaz son of Jotham son of Uzziah, king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah son of Remaliah of Israel went up to attack Jerusalem, but could not mount an attack against it. When the house of David heard that Aram had allied itself with Ephraim, the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind. Then the Lord said to Isaiah, Go out to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller’s Field, and say to him, Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah. Because Aram—with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah—has plotted evil against you, saying, Let us go up against Judah and cut off Jerusalem and conquer it for ourselves and make the son of Tabeel king in it; therefore thus says the Lord God: It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. For the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. (Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered, no longer a people.) The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all. Isaiah 7:1-9 (NRSV)

Our church used to host a Narcotics Anonymous group. They used small candles as a part of their meeting and this often puzzled my church members. One night, I decided to find out exactly what they did, so I ventured out that evening and attended my first 12-step group.

Once everyone was assembled, they passed out the little tealight candles and everyone lit them with their own lighters they carried. (It was this moment that I sorta outed myself by not having my own lighter and having to borrow one from the person next to me.) Then they turned off the lights, so the only light in the room came from those tiny flames sitting quietly on the table before us.

We all live in a noisy world, and the noise is amplified tenfold in the life of someone facing physical addictions, mental instability, and emotional upheaval. Most of the people in the room had some combination of all three. I think for me, I juggle them around, trying not to hold more than one at a time. But for one moment, the noise was turned off and our attention brought to focus on these tiny lights of hope we had been given for the night. We could name the noises for what they were in this safe place. We could share openly and honestly without being judged for who we were. In this moment of quiet, we could find ground stable enough to stand and reach out to someone next to us who need help getting to their feet. It was a beautiful thing.

The Gospel of John tells us that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. That is a truth that simply is. Even if we do not believe it, it still is true. Light always casts out darkness, no matter how big or how bright. I think the season of Advent invites us to be reminded of the power of God’s presence, even when it seems small and dim. Just as Isaiah reminded King Ahaz – our hope has always been and will always be in God. When we try to take things on ourselves, tempted as we are by the noise around us, we will fall and fail every time. Our first and last call is always to trust in God.

  • What is the busiest/noisiest part of your week?
  • Where do you find quiet?
  • What is your candle that brings your focus back to the presence of God?

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

And ransom captive Israel

Thursday December 8, 2016

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