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Imaging Tomorrow: Living with Isaiah in Advent and Christmas

It was Heidi's fourth birthday, and we had planned to go on a family outing to Playland in Rye, New York. As we sar-dined ourselves into the "birthday mobile," we were in a festive mood, ready for a day of fun and celebration. But just as we were about to pull out of the driveway the telephone started its ominous j anglings. The kids were armed with ready wisdom, "They'll call back— c'mon, Dad." But Dad didn't listen; the Calvinist tug was too intense. And, sure enough, on the other end of that phone was one of those parochial emergencies that could not be sidestepped; the birthday plans had to be put "on hold." Amid a vale of tears, I forsook and fled!

When I returned home several hours later, I took Heidi out alone to try to make faltering atonement. Heidi was crestfallen, her dreams shattered. The church had again become her enemy, and we sat amid the rubble of a ruined fourth birthday. Nothing I said seemed to convince her of the inherent rightness of my decision. I had been "weighed in the balances and found wanting."

I tried to redeem the situation. "Heidi," I said, "I'm sorry that I messed up your birthday plans, but let's go tomorrow. I won't let anything interfere, and we can even go to Ho-Jo's for dinner after we leave Playland." I eagerly watched her face, hoping for the smiles to return.

"What if someone calls tomorrow?" she asked quietly.

"No matter what, Heidi, tomorrow is yours. I promise. This time nothing will stand in our way."

The corners of Heidi's mouth began to inch upwards, "You promise, Dad?" "I promise, Heidi." Reconciliation—at last! The storm cloud hanging over Heidi dissipated, her mischievous giggle returned, and she began romping about, anticipating the fun that awaited her on the next day.

As I was rethinking that day later, it occurred to me that together Heidi and I had sneaked up on what for me is the secret of Advent. Heidi's trust was anchored to the father's promise. By trusting that Dad would make good on his promise, her hopes began to rise again. The anticipation of tomorrow's adventure burst in on today's calamity and transformed both Heidi and the situation.

Heidi was transformed by living in the light of the word of promise. We can be too. Already today we are living in the light of what will be tomorrow. We can count on it, because "Dad" said so! Advent permits us to live as though our hoping has become having.

The Scripture lessons for Advent and Christmas, 1992, invite us to sit where Isaiah sat. In living with Isaiah, we will learn that he of all the prophets had the ability to permit his today to be formed and informed by his unwavering trust that God keeps his Word and honors his promise.

Isaiah was an ambassador of the Most High with impeccable credentials. Isaiah was street-wise, to be sure, but he was also palace-wise. He could walk with kings and paupers; he could pray with priests and prophets. Isaiah was urban and urbane, rendering his insights with both moral authority and theological precision.

This man of God managed to blend the zeal of a wilderness prophet and the flair of the polished priest with the flash of the ruling class. Out of the crucible of the times—years in which tiny Judah was being ping-ponged about between the muscular nations of Syria and Assyria—Isaiah peered through the mists of menacing foes, corrupt politicians, frilly liturgies, flagging armies, and greedy merchants, and was certain that he spotted the approach of God's tomorrow through a series of pregnant images.

These images are multicolored in their style and multidimensional in their meaning. They are images that first call the prophet to recall days gone by and then to anticipate the day yet to come. Beginning with the mountain, and continuing with a branch, a desert, a sign, a child, and the eagle, the prophet grants us glimpses of tomorrow.

These images are based on the Scripture readings appointed in the Common Lectionary for Year A (for the four Sundays of Advent, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, and the First Sunday of Christ-mastide). The images in combination with the suggestions regarding bulletins and banners, worship features, children's moments, and musical offerings are supplied to you with the wish that the images of Advent and Christmas may become clearer for each of you, and that your Advent hoping may become your Christmas having.

Soli Gloria Deo

This Advent/Christmas resource was produced by a worship design team from the Wyckoff Reformed Church, Wyckoff, New Jersey: Willis A. Jones, Senior Minister; Kathy Bowers, Director of Christian Education; David Maiulb, Organist and Choirmaster; Paul and Janet Sisko, "artists in residence."