December 8, 2018
Margaret Overton ’20
PSALMS 49, 80, 90; ISAIAH 4:2-6; 1 THESSALONIANS 4:13-18; LUKE 21:5-19
Bible passages that reference nature are nearly always my favorites, but Isaiah 4:2-6 felt different, and I had a hard time figuring out where it fit in with the rest of the Christmas narrative. On the one hand, you have a very Old Testament-esque description of beautiful land, bountiful harvests, and safety and glory for the chosen people of God. On the other, visions of blood, fire, and smoke are hardly peaceful or cause for celebration (and the part of my brain dedicated to worrying about climate change can’t help but draw a line between the imagery in the last few sentences and the environmental effects of a warming world.)
But where does Jesus come in? What about the donkey and the manger and the shepherds? If this is Isaiah’s vision for the reign of the Messiah, it seems a little different from what we are promised in the Gospels.
Yet there is an interesting parallel between this passage and the traditional Christmas story. Here, God creates a “canopy” to protect the Israelites from heat and storms; meanwhile, as we all know so well, Mary and Joseph were forced to seek shelter themselves in a stable, completing the circle by protecting God’s own son. Importantly, I would add a third dimension: as Jesus said in Matthew 40:25, “just as you did it to one of the least of my people, you did it to me.” (Yet again, my inner scientist urges me to consider this quote in an environmental context.)
If I were to pick any single takeaway or lesson from this Isaiah passage, which toes the line between hopeful and vengeful, it would be this: we should work toward achieving the “beautiful and glorious” future that it describes by trusting God and caring for each other and the “fruit of the land.” And in this Christmas season, we can celebrate that Jesus is also coming to protect and care for us, just as Mary and Joseph cared for him at the very beginning.