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     You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “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 youngIsa. 40:9-11

Dear heavenly Father, once again, the season of Advent is upon us, our celebration of the two comings of Jesus—the promised Messiah, our perfect Savior, your beloved Son. Grant that it will prove to be much more than Advent-as-usual.

Surprise us, Father. Help us to engage with the stories of Jesus’ birth, and longed for return, with the delight of children, the awe of angels and the anticipation of the prophets. Rescue us from the sentimental and the predictable. Bring familiar Scriptures alive in fresh and transforming ways. Reshape how we do Christmas this year, by the power of the gospel.

Already this morning I’ve been comforted by Isaiah’s picture of your “Advent arms.” The promise of the Messiah carries with it the provision of the only embrace we actually need. In Jesus, you entered our broken world with your sleeves rolled up—committed to redeem your people and restore your creation. Your arm rules over all history, all nations, all kings, and all circumstances. Nothing, and no one, can alter, subvert, or change the story you are telling, and the kingdom you are advancing.

In Jesus, you come near to us as the most compassionate Shepherd—gathering and carrying your lambs in your arms. This image gives us peace like nothing else. To be tended as a vulnerable sheep, to be held close to your heart, to be gently led—what more could we possibly long for in this life?

We are glad Isaiah’s words are more than metaphors, Father. You really are this kind of God and you really are this kind. The coming of Jesus puts all nations on notice. There is only one true King. And the coming of Jesus puts all your people face down in adoring love—for our Good Shepherd is the Lamb of God—who has come to take away the sins of the world.  So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ matchless and merciful name.

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Scotty Smith

Scotty Smith is the founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. You can follow him on Twitter.

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