Herald Journal Columns
Dec. 5, 2005, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Expecting and hopeful

By Rev. Sherri L. Sandoz, Bethel Lutheran Church, Lester Prairie

The sun is low in the sky today and hidden beneath thick clouds. On the dark side of a November world, even midday light struggles to keep the shadows at bay.

The last of the color has fluttered away on the frosty breath of autumn in a cycle as natural as any birth and death.

We know it is coming. It cannot be helped or prevented, only anticipated. Winter will come.

All of nature reposes in the healing sleep of fallow, dormant winter. Life forces dim, then huddle together, gathering new strength for the growth to come.

Winter is but a gestation of sorts, a pregnant time awaiting new life. Expectant and hopeful, winter is as beautiful as it is necessary.

Isaiah, priest and prophet, lived in a dark and dormant time, soon to become darker still. Not to be overcome by the shadows, Isaiah was filled with a strong conviction about the future – for himself and his fellow Israelites.

Isaiah understood the dormancy that anticipates new life: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Is. 55:10-11)

Isaiah was not a predictor, prognosticator, or fortune-teller. He simply believed that if the world could become morally coherent, God’s purposes for the future would prevail. His powerful voice generated energy and hope for obedience to God, obedience that is often costly and always life-giving.

Like a beacon of light that stretches for miles and shatters the darkness, the echo of his voice has lighted a path to the babe, the cross, and resurrection.

The words of the prophet echo across the millennia: “For a child has been born to us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Is. 9: 6-7)

When the time had been fulfilled, there came a winter’s night when all the earth lay quietly, expectant and hopeful. In the stillness of that starry night, a son was born to us, a Son given to us . . . . and the world has never been the same.

Many today are not comfortable with quiet, dormant times. We no longer rest, nor do we foster deep anticipation. Rather, we live in states of constant expectation and instant gratification.

Noisy activity covers the message and the mystery of the Savior’s birth, a message that is meant to be conveyed to those with ears to hear. Can anyone hear anymore? Does anyone listen?

I invite you; no, I implore you to be still. Listen.

There are many around you who need the quiet to hear the Word that you and I take for granted. They do not know, nor have they ever heard the Good News.

May this Advent be for you a gestation of sorts, expectant, hopeful and beautiful, a time of renewing hope for the salvation of the world. It cannot be helped or prevented, only anticipated.

Jesus, who was, and is, and is to come – will come.


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