This Advent, I find myself especially hungry for God. Perhaps it’s related to yet another viral variant with all the uncertainty that it brings. Or the rounds of one conspiracy theory after another, the erosion of the most basic shared understanding of right and wrong, truth and lies. Or the weight, the grief of the starving families, lack of schooling for girls, targeted killings by Taliban.
For all of these reasons, and perhaps many more, I find myself sickened by cotton-candy comfort and longing for God’s “solidness”—that wonderfully firm foundation of someone who knows what is right and will ultimately, with the greatest of love and wisdom, bring it about. A foundation that lets me stand up straight and breathe deeply and step firmly, unafraid of the ground shifting under me.
And I’m grateful for the way God is feeding me.
I confess I’m a lot more familiar with the second half of Isaiah than the first. I turn often to Isaiah 40, 41, and beyond for the words of the One who says, “Comfort, comfort my people,” and “Do not fear, for I am with you,” and “You are mine.” But this time I’m reading from the beginning of Isaiah and I’m surprised to discover how much love and comfort is woven through the first half of the book as well, the half that I’ve tended to find harder going.
The comfort doesn’t come just at the end of the story, but right in the middle of the mess: a promise and a Presence where we need it most.
As God’s love and justice intertwine, even the passages of judgement feel like such good news to me precisely because that judgment is in the hands of someone who is Love, a strong and true and wise and righteous love, not a mushy love that is of no use against the weightiness of the wrong and injustice in the world. Seeing God’s justice and love entwined opens space for me to be still and know that God is God, that I don’t have to carry the weight of the injustice in the world because God is onto it.
I’m hungry for this One who is both Love and Truth, this one whose love and truth lead to life and hope, righteousness and reconciliation. And so my heart kneels in gratitude as I remember that the One who referred to himself as the bread that came down from heaven was born in Bethlehem, that town which in Hebrew literally means house (bet) of bread (lehem). There in the house of bread, he was laid in a feeding trough. His whole life, from the moment of birth, pointed to his purpose: to bring us to new birth and sustain us in his whole and holy life, filling and nourishing us with his body and blood as a mother feeds her baby through her blood and body.
He calls us to come, again and again and again. Come hungry and thirsty, come and feed on him and be filled with the One who alone is life and love and truth.
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live. (Isaiah 55:1-3)