From the Prophet Isaiah:
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.
Who is like me? Let them proclaim it,
let them declare and set it forth before me.
Who has announced from of old the things to come?
Let them tell us what is yet to be.
Do not fear, or be afraid;
have I not told you from of old and declared it?
You are my witnesses!
Is there any god besides me?
There is no other rock; I know not one.
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Isaiah 44:6-8 (NRSV) – December 27, 2012.)
On the third day of Christmas the church calendar directs our attention to St. John the Evangelist and, again, the Daily Office lectionary falls in line. John is the gospeller whose wonderful prologue serves as the Gospel lesson at the Eucharist on Christmas Day (1:1-14) and on the first Sunday after Christmas (1:1-18). It is for me a much more meaningful Gospel of the Incarnation than Luke’s sweet story of innkeepers, shepherds, angels, and the virgin birth: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (v. 1)
John’s prologue speaks to me of a God who communicates and through communication creates, redeems, and saves. It reminds us of the story of creation in Genesis: “God said . . . .” and everything came into being.
Isaiah’s prophecy in today’s evening reading, I’m sure, is meant to underscore this. Isaiah, speaking on God’s behalf, demands communication from other gods who would seek to supplant the Almighty: “Let them proclaim . . . let them declare . . . who has announced? . . . let them tell.” And God reminds us that God is a communicator: “Have I not told you from of old and declared it?” Our God is a God who communicates, who is in relationship with his people, who comes among them to speak and to listen. The other gods are nothing but mute idols.
Or, at least, in Isaiah’s time, they were. As I write these words my television happens to be on; others in the family are watching a morning talk show and there are advertisements sprinkled among the stories of post-Christmas sales, politics, and “the fiscal cliff”. The gods of greed and consumption are communicating most loudly; the objects of modern worship are promoting themselves wantonly.
But are they listening? Do these gods hear the cries of the poor and homeless? Do these gods listen to the moans of the hungry and the sick? Do these gods pay heed to the needs of those who have no resources, who cannot pay homage in their temples of commerce?
These are gods for whom communication is one-way. They tell of themselves and they expect their worshipers to come . . . come and buy, come and consume, come and be consumed. But they do not listen. Only God the Word, incarnate in that baby celebrated in Luke’s sweet story, “became flesh and lived among us” and listens to us. “There is no other rock; I know not one.”
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.