by Shelia Marsh
Joy bursts forth from man and nature because the Lord is coming to judge the earth and its people. Yes, in this Advent message from the Old Testament, the Lord is coming not as the Messiah, but as a judge. These verses celebrate God’s victory, a victory already won, praise his steadfast love, and look forward – with joy – to his coming judgment. This is a Christmas story, but a somber one.
Viewed from a New Testament perspective this reading reminds us why Advent is a penitential season. We know that the victory we look forward to from the standpoint of the nativity will be won, not with a “holy arm” of power, but through death and suffering. We cannot forget, even as we rejoice, that the wondrous act of love we celebrate at Christmas culminates in a sacrifice that calls us to repent. We remember when we think of judgment that we cannot accept the gifts of God’s mercy and forgiveness unless we first understand ourselves as sinners. If we can look to God’s judgment with anything other than terror it is because of the love beyond comprehension that is revealed to us at Christmas. Rejoice!