The Bishop of Brixworth writes
“O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie …..
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
By the time you read my words, the result will be known. It would be fair to say that “hopes and fears” could well describe the feelings of many at this time of political uncertainty.
The election campaign has been one of the strangest ever and has not been a particularly edifying spectacle. Indeed, whatever the result, the quality of what could only be described with deep irony as “public debate” augurs very badly for future political co-operation.
At a similar time of national uncertainty (the death of the long-reigning King Uzziah), the prophet Isaiah had a vision of God enthroned in the temple. It was terrifying; “I saw the Lord, seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs…. At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the house was filled with smoke.” (Isaiah 6.1-4)
In the midst of his sheer terror, Isaiah hears the Lord saying; “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” and, probably even more frightening, hears himself say; “Here I am, send me”.
Then, when the political situation became much worse (a threatened foreign invasion), Isaiah is given words of hope; “The Lord himself will give you a sign. A virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Emmanuel”. (Isaiah 7.14) St Matthew later used this prophecy to describe the coming of Jesus, helpfully adding the explanation that “Emmanuel” means “God with us”. (Matthew 1.23)
As we embark upon Advent and look forwards to Christmas it’s good to be reminded that our hopes and fears can best be met, not by any earthly political leader, but in Christ, the Emmanuel God who is with us.
Isaiah has a powerful experience of God, says “Yes” to his call and then points towards hopeful signs of God’s active presence in the world. This Advent may we all meet the Emmanuel God afresh, rejoice in the signs of his presence and say “Yes” to his call.
+ John Brixworth