Uniform 11.30.2014: Gratitude and Hope

Isaiah 52:1-2, 7-12

Uniform_SD14_smThis week marks the start of a new season on the church calendar. It is Advent, the time when Christians wait with hopeful expectation for the coming of Christ. As it so often does, this first Sunday of Advent—when we light the candle of hope on our wreaths—falls just a few days after Thanksgiving. Most years the connection between these two celebrations is lost on me. Like so many Americans, I usually spend the Sunday after Thanksgiving on the road, headed back home after time with family. And as we drive, my husband and I go over our Christmas shopping list and strategize about the next round of holiday travels. The flurry we create for ourselves leaves little time for reflection.

But this year is different. For my little family, the themes of gratitude and hope are impossible to separate, finding new meaning through the presence of two tiny people. A few weeks ago, we welcomed twin girls to our clan. A holiday season with newborns means no traveling all over the Southeast, no marathon days in the kitchen, and no competing for parking spots at the outlet mall. I will spend this Thanksgiving Day at home, snuggling with my daughters and thanking God for the overwhelming gift of two healthy baby girls. And a few days later, I will pull out our Christmas decorations while thanking God for using my little ones to renew my confidence in the hope of the incarnation. For perhaps the first time in my life, my observance of Advent will be shaped by a deep spirit of gratitude.

Like Isaiah’s messengers of peace (52:7), babies have a way of reminding us that God is already present within us and among us. Every blink, coo, and cry is a call to “awake” (v. 1) to the ways God is here now and a reassurance that we will experience God even more fully in the future. I am grateful for a double dose of this message as we begin another Advent season. May you all find evidence of God’s comforting presence as you travel toward Christmas.


1. How do you reconcile the abrupt transition between Thanksgiving and Advent in your holiday celebrations?
2. How does the feeling of gratitude prepare us to experience hope?
3. What renews your hope in God’s presence? What experiences have awakened you to God’s work in your life?
4. How can you express your gratitude for God’s work in your life in ways that can help others find hope and comfort?

Reference Shelf

52:3-12. The messenger who announces peace.

The LORD announces his presence in Zion and compares it to the divine appearance in Egypt to deliver the Israelites centuries before. Just as at that time Israel came to recognize who the LORD was both through appearance and action, so this generation will come to know God through the events of the day.

There is a joyous recognition of the approach of messengers who come to proclaim peace. This peace is much more than the cessation of war. It announces a coming health and wholeness for the city. This peace is nothing less than salvation for the ruined city. The messengers who were ordered sent in 40:1, 9-11 have finally arrived.

The message they bring is found in vv. 9-10. The people in Zion are to rejoice for the LORD has comforted his people. The arm God bares represents the Persian emperors and their commitment to rebuild the Temple. God’s presence in history will become clear to all the surrounding peoples who will see the rebuilding as the salvation of Israel’s God.

Verses 11-12 renew the call to Depart, first heard in 48:20. The call is for priests and Levites to return, being careful to purify themselves for the travel so that they can be ready to serve on the sacred grounds when they arrive. But they must go with dignity. This is not a backdoor escape. The LORD, the God of Israel, will both lead them and protect their flanks as they travel.


John D.W. Watts, “Isaiah” in Mercer Commentary on the Old Testament, ed. Watson E. Mills, et al (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1995) 604.

Bonnie Chappell is the editor of the Uniform Series Bible Study. She is a graduate of Mercer University and Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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