Part One
 : Separation from God, The Longing of Creation,
and a Promised Hope

Steve Matson

I will sing for the one I love, a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded on bad fruit. “Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it only yield bad? Now I will tell you what I am going to do o my vineyard: I will take away its hedge and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it.” The vineyard of the lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.
– Isaiah 5:1-7, NIV

“And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”
– Isaiah 6:13, NIV


The mad rush is on. We careen out of Halloween, bounce off of Thanksgiving, and plough straight into the frenetic pace of the Christmas season. So much activity. The calendar. The decorations. The gift-giving. The parties. The marketing. The church commitments. The cultural imperative that we wear it all with a smile. The….


Our text grounds us. It tells us that the season of anticipation, Advent, begins with dearth. The lack of something. And a “something” that all of the holiday hurriedness and non-stop pursuits cannot begin to address.

Stop. Breathe.

There is a bigger picture here. It is a picture of abundance forsaken, and—blessedly—the prospect of abundance restored. However, as with so much in life, the blessing cannot make sense nor be adequately appreciated for what it is without the backdrop of the curse. Israel (read, “we”) had it all. A God of the universe who created in loving communion and covenant promise. But Israel (read, “we”) spurned that beautiful relationship and chose to curve in on ourselves. Chose badly. Forsook. Thus, it became forsaken. Separate. Alone. Without ultimate hope and meaning. Lost. That is our inheritance as we enter into Advent.

Stop. Breathe. Smile.

Hope. The holy seed remained. And it took root and blossomed in the supreme act of God’s self-giving, his incarnate birth amongst us. To be faithful to the good work he had begun. His right hand, that of love, took precedence over his left hand, that of justice. In fact, they were united in the Person of Christ, who was born that he might die—and rise that we might live. Found. No longer separated. Hope of hopes. Emmanuel, “God-with-us.” If only we embrace the Babe, whose birth we celebrate, the Babe who fulfills the deepest longing of our being. Salvation and restoration.

Stop. Breathe. Smile. Blessed.

So take a moment up-front this Christmas season, to gain perspective and recall the backdrop to our celebration. Actually, take moments throughout this season to reflect on this blessed Emmanuel and what depths we have been rescued out of. We believers are supremely blessed. And all of that holiday run-about? What of it? It has its place, but we will be joyful only when aligned and purposed with the real meaning of the season and cadenced accordingly. More importantly, be conscious of the rumors of glory that pervade this season and beckon ahead.


You see the extremes
Of what humans can be?
And in that distance some tension’s born
Energy surging like a storm
You plunge your hand in
And draw it back scorched
Beneath it’s shining like
Gold but better
Rumors of glory

– From “Rumors of Glory”, singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn