Advent thoughts: December 16

“He [Jesus] will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench” (Isaiah 42:2-3—read Isaiah 42:1-9).

Each of us is the bruised reed and the faintly burning wick that Jesus will not break or quench. We wish we were the strong ones, warriors for the Lord, bringing glory to his name and winning victories for his kingdom. Instead, we find ourselves trapped in sin, overwhelmed by evil, struggling to get by in a world polluted by sin and obsessed with death.

When John the Baptist was sitting in prison, he sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask if Jesus was the Messiah or if John should wait for someone else. John knew the answer to this question. Perhaps sitting in prison he felt abandoned. Perhaps he thought Jesus needed a reminder of his job. Perhaps John simply wanted his disciples to hear from Jesus himself that he is the Messiah. Jesus quoted from Isaiah and pointed to what he was doing as evidence that he is the Messiah. Jesus quoted, “to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.” Yet John remained in prison and was eventually killed in prison. Jesus opened the eyes of the blind and worked many other miraculous healings, but he did not release John from prison.

Sometimes we can relate to John’s situation. We know that Jesus is the answer for all our problems, but we trust Jesus, and the problems remain. We know that Jesus hears and answers all our prayers. But we pray about our problems, and the problems remain. Jesus does not give an instant “yes” to our requests. Instead of removing our burdens, he lets our burdens remain to strengthen our faith and increase our hope for the future. He will release us from those burdens, but at a time of his choosing, a time that he knows is best for us.

Jesus is gentle with us. He does not treat us as we deserve when we sin. Instead, he removes our sins and bears the punishment we deserve. Whatever goes wrong for us is not punishment from God’s hand. Whatever goes wrong is a consequence of living in a world polluted by sin. God can do anything; he could keep us from having any problems. Instead he permits problems in our lives. He permits problems so we continue to turn to him for help. He permits problems to strengthen our faith and our trust in him. He permits problems to give us opportunities to serve him, either by resisting evil or by persisting to do good in the face of adversity.

Jesus does not break the bruised reed. He does not quench the faintly burning wick. He loves us and cares for us, bearing our iniquities and giving us strength to continue on our walk of faith. He is continually transforming us into his image, reshaping us to be children of God in this world and in the world to come. Thanks be to God! J.