Posted: 11 December 2014

Advent: 'The word of our God endures forever'.

Today Krish Kandiah opens up Isaiah 40.1-11 and invites us to reflect on fleeting ambitions that we so often chase, which are here today and gone tomorrow. He calls us to be ambitious in dreaming, conspiring and working with God to play our part in transforming the world of the most vulnerable children in our communities.

Name this tune

The Nokia tune

Do you know the tune? It used to be the soundtrack of nearly every train journey I went on. As soon as you heard it you saw scores of business people clutching at their suit pockets. It was of course the Nokia ring tone. The Scandinavian mobile communication giant once had, according to some commentators, a 48.7% market share of the industry. Yet a couple of weeks ago it was revealed that the mobile brand was no more. Microsoft who had initially bought up the mobile phone division was now mothballing it. The Blackberry story is a very similar one: the once omnipresent mobile phone producer now has less than 1% of the global market. I wonder if eventually Apple or Google will suffer the same fate? 

How different things look in hindsight. There was a time when I longed for a Nokia and later a Blackberry with great ardor. I would pore over their specifications working out which model to buy and then which configuration to invest in. When I finally became the proud owner, I dressed it up in just the right case, just the right screen saver, just the right ring tone. How foolish that seems now - brands that once defined our lives are gone. Success isn’t what it used to be. The once-prized items are now buried in the bottomless drawer of tangled cables and defunct gadgets underneath my bed. The things that used to drive my ambition are now just gathering dust. This reminds me of a passage of scripture.  

All people are like grass,

    and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.

The grass withers and the flowers fall,

    because the breath of the Lord blows on them.

    Surely the people are grass. 

The grass withers and the flowers fall,

    but the word of our God endures forever.

Isaiah 40:7-8

3.1 million children die each year

Just like my lawn clippings and deadheading, solid companies, like ancient civilizations, and last year's celebrities are cast aside and vanish. And these are nothing to mourn, really, not with the news that 2014 was the year in which there was a 61% rise in the number of deaths due to terrorism. But even those 17,958 deaths cannot compare to the numbers involved in our global hunger crisis. The World Food Programme estimates that poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five: 3.1 million children each year. Surely, it seems, the people are like the grass that withers.

This is rather a depressing subject to consider when opening an Advent calendar. Surely Christmas is supposed to be a jolly time full of cheer and light in the middle of winter isn’t it? But the Christmas cheer offered in this passage of Isaiah only makes sense in light of the gloom. There is about to be a turning point in the epic prophetic tome. Those verses above round off 39 unrelenting chapters of judgment promised to a nation infected to the core with injustice and immorality. But in light of this dire situation come the words of hope and peace and mercy:

Comfort, comfort my people,

    says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

    and proclaim to her

that her hard service has been completed,

    that her sin has been paid for,

that she has received from the Lord’s hand

    double for all her sins.

'Every valley shall be raised up,

    every mountain and hill made low;

the rough ground shall become level,

    the rugged places a plain.'

 'Here is your God!'

See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,

    and he rules with a mighty arm.

See, his reward is with him,

    and his recompense accompanies him.

He tends his flock like a shepherd:

 He gathers the lambs in his arms

and carries them close to his heart;

    he gently leads those that have young.

Tend, carry and lead

It’s like a brand new ring tone. God is going to show up and will transform the landscape with the ease of a tweenager playing minecraft. But the powerful earth-reshaping, tectonic plate-shifting God is coming to his planet not to judge but to gently tend and carry and lead. In light of the fragility of this world, the majestic God becomes meek and fragile himself. It’s the Christmas message we need to hear while we are being reminded to upgrade our gadgets and enhance our lifestyles. 

What is the true value of those ambitions? 

How might you fulfil the need to be ambitious to know the God who is changing our world?

How might you be ambitious in dreaming, conspiring and working with him to play our part in transforming the world of the vulnerable children in our communities?

By Krish Kandiah - Guest bloggers

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